An open letter on the Pacific Gateway project and the future of the Fraser River;
To the Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada and the Honourable Gordon Campbell Premier of British Columbia:
The “Province of BC's Gateway Program” and associated "Deltaport Expansion" are being planned, at great expense, with the belief that the benefits to Canadians are substantial. But this mega-project will have strong negative consequences for our region and we your electorate are skeptical about the ultimate economic payoff. First, there will inevitably be major ecological damage from a construction project of this scale. Second, the project will further encourage the use of fossil-fuelled vehicles. Third, it will create unnecessary risks for Fraser River salmon and other wildlife and cause an adverse impact on the quality of life we enjoy in this magnificent area. At a time of mounting concern about shrinking ecosystems, vanishing natural species and global climate change, such an undertaking makes little sense.
The value of all the ecological goods and services provided by the wetlands of the Lower Fraser Valley (LFV) in British Columbia has been estimated to be between $5,792 and $24,330/ha/yr. The value of all the ecological goods and services provided by the lakes and rivers of the LFV have been estimated at $8500/ha/year (Olewiler, N. 2004). The integrity of these goods and services is certain to be undermined by the Pacific Gateway Project. Millions of wild Pacific salmon use the Fraser as their freshwater highway to and from their birthplace. Their populations will be diminished in number and in health. Our most prominent scientists claim they cannot accurately predict the impact such massive developments and the vehicle traffic they encourage, will have on present, ever-decreasing wild salmon populations who already face significant, multiple threats.
Your government’s solution to the issues is to mitigate the impacts. But mitigation is a marginal undertaking at the best of times. Our once pristine wild ecosystems are today highly compromised after more than 100 years of extensive industrial development. They are not strong enough to withstand more degradation. The time for anything less than drastic re-thinking of the goals and strategies of a mega-project like this is over!
In our minds, the Pacific Gateway Project offers, at best, a 20th century solution to a uniquely 21st century problem. It represents a step backwards from the real, sustainable solutions available in today’s society. We can no longer afford to think in terms of a simple trade-off between a healthy economy and healthy ecosystems. There are other options at hand. Canada once had abundant natural resources. Today these are fewer and scarcer and they must be carefully conserved. But fortunately we have plenty of outstanding human resources. Given the opportunity, enterprising Canadians could offer effective long-term solutions for saving our natural capital in ways that would both conserve and be efficient for our ecology and our economy.
The public has made it clear time and again that the ecological integrity of the Fraser River and its Estuary are a precious irreplaceable resource that needs to be preserved and protected. This is not only for the sake of its resident flora and fauna, but for future generations. The people of BC have demanded and still await open, transparent consultation on the true extent of this very expensive and invasive project and the cumulative impacts it will have on the following:
1) Overall air, water and land quality
2) Indigenous plant and animal species
3) Human communities and their quality of life
4) Ecological-economic sustainability indicators for future generations
5) Social, cultural and spiritual values
6) Overall patterns of global climate change
Furthermore, the Government of BC and Canada must show accountability by providing:
1) Identification and implementation of such mitigation and compensation measures that will contribute substantially to the replacement of past major losses and guard against other future cumulative adverse impacts.
2) Adoption of a comprehensive program of environmental protection measures – either market based, regulatory or both – that will restore and protect our natural environment. The present management regime, contrary to the provisions of Federal law and established policy (under the Fisheries Act), seem only to allow for a slow net loss of habitat.
We, in British Columbia and Canada, still have the gift of what much of the world has lost – wild salmon, biodiversity and natural assets in relative abundance. These are critical elements of the Canada we all know and love. They are also priceless. Therefore we ask that you stop acting so irresponsibly towards them. We ask instead, that you turn more respectfully towards the protection and preservation of the trillions of dollars of ecological services and species that support our continued societal health. We ask that you exhibit the courage and foresight to show the world how British Columbia and Canada can honestly provide real environmental stewardship and leadership for the rest of the world.
Show your children that you care about their children’s future. We are poised at this moment in history to positively reconcile our relationship with the earth by discontinuing the present pathway to the unsustainable future the Pacific Gateway Project represents.