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Thousands of birds victims of Delta port's power lines, submission contends

The federal government should investigate why the overhead transmission lines are not placed underground, the society through the Environmental Law Centre contends
delta port birds power lines
The submission states it is also arguable that by failing to arrange with BC Hydro to bury the transmission lines, the port authority may be helping to perpetuate an offence of killing a threatened species, contrary to the Species at Risk Act.

The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, on behalf of the BC Great Blue Heron Society, has filed a submission to the federal government calling for an investigation into “lethal impacts” of transmission lines on birds in the Roberts Bank bird habitat area of Deltaport.

The submission requests that the federal government “report on the failure” of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Transport Canada.

The submission also calls for the overhead power lines to be moved underground.

“Over the years, this failure has led to the documented deaths of many thousands of birds. These wholly unnecessary deaths contribute incrementally to the catastrophic decline in coastal bird populations caused by general environmental deterioration,” states the submission to Jerry De Marco, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Office, Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

The submission, among other things, contends the transmission lines at Roberts Bank are inconsistent with the federal Sustainable Development Strategy and Transport Canada’s Sustainable Development Strategy.

“We submit that Transport Canada should take more responsibility for achieving the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goal of increasing migratory bird populations. To achieve the Transport Canada Sustainable Development Strategy goal of promoting an ‘environmentally responsible transportation system,’ Transport Canada must take steps to protect the globally significant bird populations at Roberts Bank. Transport Canada should ensure that VFPA acts to remove the lethal transmission lines at the Superport,” the submission states.

The presence of overhead transmission lines at Roberts Bank is also contrary to the Government of Canada’s management plan for the great blue heron and British Columbia’s recovery plan for barn owls, while the failure to move the wires underground also risks contravention of the Species at Risk Act, the submission warns.

The document also notes it is an open question whether BC Hydro, the port authority and others have made adequate efforts to mitigate the bird mortality caused by the transmission lines.

They installed spiral vibration dampers in 1996, 139 of which their own study notes to not be as effective as initially estimated, the submission states, noting an Environment Canada study into the effectiveness of those measures found them to be inadequate in 2010.

Installing a set of inadequate dampers may not fulfill the defence of due diligence, while the possibility that federal bodies might be contributing to a breach of the Species at Risk Act adds to the urgency.

“In light of the information above, we request an investigation into the impacts of the Overhead Transmission Lines on the Delta Causeway at Roberts Bank on bird mortality, and a report recommending that the transmission lines be relocated underground. The Commissioner has the authority to monitor and report on Transport Canada, and, therefore, the VFPA’s progress towards sustainable development. The continuing operation of lethal overhead transmission lines is clearly hindering this progress.”

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