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Sturgeon Banks future debated

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 2:33 PDT, Fri March 27, 2020

Richmond’s Sturgeon Banks is an important habitat for many species.

It’s also the proposed site of the South Arm Jetty Tidal Marsh project, which was a topic of discussion at a recent city council meeting.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has submitted an application to obtain a 30 year lease for this land in order to convert sand flat into marsh habitat. In an early March report, city staff recommended that council endorse the port authority’s application.

But upon discussion, many city councillors voiced their opposition to the project.

Coun. Michael Wolfe noted that the area is designated as a Ramsar site—an internationally important wetland site—and was named Canada’s No. 1 important bird area. He requested that the port authority consider an alternative site, since the area already provides a habitat for a number of species.

Wolfe also voiced concern about possible erosion of the planned marsh, since the area is already subject to erosion.

Environment manager Chad Paulin explained that the site was chosen years ago and requesting a location change would likely be a fruitless effort.

Coun. Carol Day said she believed the port authority was trying to make up for other mistakes.

“This is to offset negative things that are happening in Delta (with the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project), so that doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with taking a second look at this project, because I think we can do better.”

Coun. Harold Steves agreed, saying the port authority’s aim with this project is to replace marsh they destroyed in the past. 

“What should happen is simply let nature take its course,” said Steves. “I think it’s important to recognize that they’re doing (this proposed project) in the wrong place.”

After hearing councillors’ arguments, Mayor Malcolm Brodie asked staff if it would be worthwhile to take a second look at potential environmental issues.

Paulin said while city staff ultimately supported the project, they could take a second look if asked by council. Engineering and public works manager John Irving added that city’s comments—even if negative—would be unlikely to slow the approval process at this stage.

“That doesn’t mean we have to show support for the project,” said Mayor Brodie. “If we don’t like it, even if it makes no difference, I’d rather not support it. From my point of view, I think we need to have staff take a longer look at it and talk more about the process as well.”

Mayor Brodie moved for a referral for further study by staff and an extension of time for comment. All councillors were in favour of the referral. While the current deadline for comments is April 8, city council hopes to extend the deadline with their motion.

For more on the proposed project, visit the port authority’s website.

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