White Rock’s mayor is asking for council support to voice “strong concerns” regarding a proposal by Fraser Surrey Docks to build a coal-transfer facility.
In a motion to be considered at city hall tonight (March 11), Mayor Wayne Baldwin names a number of issues he wants to address with Fraser Surrey Docks and Port Metro Vancouver, including “the total lack of public consultation to the point where the city has to get its notice from the newspapers.”
Fraser Surrey Docks has applied to build a terminal that would bring in thermal coal from Wyoming via the BNSF railway that runs through White Rock, South Surrey and Delta.
Along with a proposal to expand Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver, it is to be decided by Port Metro Vancouver managers, with no formal public meetings or approvals by other agencies.
In his motion, Baldwin describes the potential increase in rail traffic through the community if the proposal goes through as “unacceptable.”
Other concerns he wants to highlight are the impact of coal dust on the environment and local residences; the impact of the additional noise on the community and along the waterfront; and “the apparent lack of any kind of an environmental assessment by any level of senior government.”
Port Metro Vancouver director of planning and development Jim Crandles has said civic zoning doesn’t apply. Both applications were, however, referred to the cities of Surrey and North Vancouver for comment; Delta and New Westminster were also notified, as were nearby residents.
Baldwin’s motion follows a resolution passed by council Feb. 25 to have staff review recommendations from the city’s environment committee calling on city officials to speak out on the issue.
The resolution caught the eye of proposal opponents including Kevin Washbrook of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change and Eoin Madden, climate change campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.
“Elected officials like Mayor (Wayne) Wright of New Westminster and Mayor (Gregor) Robertson of Vancouver have voiced the concerns of those affected by these mega-projects, only to find themselves shut out of the approval process by the Port. We are very appreciative that White Rock city council has stepped up now to help get democracy back into this process,” Madden states in a March 6 press release.
Washbrook described the resolution as “a significant act of leadership by council.”
“White Rock is the front line municipality when it comes to coal-train traffic out of the US. Your community has not been consulted on these plans,” Washbrook said by email. “A new coal port will bring no benefits, only increased traffic, noise, dust and exhaust. I’ll be interested to hear how Surrey and the Port Authority respond.”
At least one councillor, while supportive of raising the issue, is questioning just how much impact the city’s voice will have.
“The railway’s a federal matter. We can make as much noise as we can and probably should,” Coun. Al Campbell told Peace Arch News Thursday.
“Do we have a lot of clout? Probably not, but we should be making a noise.”
It’s estimated the new Surrey facility would result in up to two more coal trains per day through the community, each up to 2.3 kilometres long.
Campbell said he would love to see coal-train traffic gone from the waterfront altogether. He described it as “very noisy and very disruptive,” and predicted there will eventually be a new, direct rail line built, possibly through Cloverdale, to accommodate it.
“With the amount of coal traffic they’re talking about, I don’t think it’s reasonable to keep bringing it through here,” he said. “I think eventually they will say, we’ll find another route.”
If council supports Baldwin’s motion, a copy of the correspondence will be sent to the GVRD, City of Surrey, District of Delta and Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg.