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What would you rather see $1.2 billion spent on other than a freeway?

YTAG, Bridgeview Community Action Group, Sunbury Neighbourhood Association, and Gateway Sucks are all participating in this newest and most promising campaign against the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Current transportation minister Shirley Bond is the target. She appears not to be too involved in the Gateway project, and little informed about the SFPR. Shirley even referred to the SFPR at one point as the “Simon Fraser Perimeter Road”. It’s time to inform her about this freeway, and to inform her that we don’t want it!

“Sand for Shirley” involves individuals, such as yourself, filling out the following: “I want our government to invest in ____________________ not freeways.” The forms will then be attached to an envelope, which will be filled with a scoop of the sandy pre-load that currently covers the more boggy areas of the proposed freeway’s route.

The message for Shirley? Take it back, we don’t want it!!!

The campaign was kick-started on Sunday July 25th at International Bog Days. For updates on where to find campaigners and what events they will be attending, check out http://sandforshirley.wordpress.com/ and look under the tab “Send Sand”.

If you are unable to attend an event and send sand in person, you can fill out the online petition here. For every signature, one scoop of pre-load will be added to send to the Minister of Transportation Shirley Bond.

Remember: It’s far from being too late to stop the SFPR. The government is short on funds, the pre-load must sit for 2-5 years, there is no contract for the actual paving of the road, and there is a massive amount of public opposition.

Come take part in a campaign that is looking out to be EPIC!

By Georgia Campbell

British Columbia’s already vulnerable salmon populations are put increasingly at risk through the provinces “Gateway Program”.  The Gateway Program is a plan to build and expand highways, bridges, railroads, rail yards, and port facilities, encouraging trade with Asia-Pacific (Cuff 2007).  Unfortunately, this development will have an extreme impact on our air quality, our marine and river habitat, and our local wildlife (Ibid).  Specifically, the Gateway Program will have an adverse affect on our pacific salmon populations through the construction of a major highway known as the South Fraser Perimeter Road (Ibid).

The South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) is a proposed highway that will follow the south side of the Fraser River (see fig. 1). The Fraser River watershed drains almost one-third of the province, extends from the Rocky Mountains to the mouth in Vancouver, and spans a distance of 1,400 km (Rand et al 2006).  The Fraser River is the largest salmon-producing river system in Canada (Farrell et al 2008) and a large contributor to our provincial economy (Cox & Hinch 1997).   By building a highway along the Fraser River, salmon populations will be affected in three main ways: through highway construction, highway presence, and increased urbanization (Wheeler et al 2005). This will, in turn, negatively affect our local economy and provincial food security.

Presently, our salmon populations are barely sustainable and are increasingly vulnerable to environmental changes. The collapse of our BC sockeye salmon population this year has created an extreme problem for First Nations food security and for the provincial economy.  BC’s Fraser River this August expected 10.6-13 million sockeye salmon returning to natal spawning grounds and only 1.7 returned (Hume 2009).  The collapse caused sockeye fisheries on the Fraser River to close in July, causing a serious problem for First Nation’s communities who relay on salmon for sustenance and a principal source of protein (Karp 2009).  Increased construction, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions produced by the new South Perimeter Road highway will only increase the fragility of the salmon ecosystems, and decrease the resiliency and sustainability of our local salmon.

Our local salmon populations are born in the freshwater headwaters of the Fraser River.  Once mature enough, the salmon migrate to the ocean northward to the Gulf of Alaska (Cox & Hinch 1997).  Once reproductively mature (about 4 years of age), the salmon use precise homing skills to return to the Fraser River and their natal streams to spawn and, after which, die (Ibid; Rand et al 2006).  Because sockeye salmon only spawn once in their lifetime, it is crucial that they succeed in their homeward migration in order to propagate.  The SFPR will interfere with the migration of both sea-bound juvenile salmon and stream-bound spawning salmon, and decrease salmons’ ability to survive and propagate.

During the SFPR highway construction, an increased amount of sediment will likely enter the Fraser River (Wheeler et al 2005) harming migratory salmon (Lake & Hinch 1999).  Research shows that “fine sediment pollution from highway construction can immediately alter macroinvertebrate and fish communities” (Wheeler et al 2005, 145), and can reduce the amount of fish by 50% (Ibid).  Sediment has such a profound effect on fish because it can clog gills causing severe damage, thus reducing feeding abilities and oxygen consumption (Ibid), and can cause anoxia, stress, and eventually death (Lake & Hinch 1999).

Along with sediments, highway construction will also introduce harmful pollutants into the waterway (Wheeler et al 2005).  During construction the use of heavy machinery can cause chemical pollution, and materials used for highway construction are “highly toxic to aquatic biota” (Wheeler et al 2005, 144).  Because of proximity, this pollution will surely enter the Fraser River and pollute salmon habitat (Wilderness Committee n.d.).

Extended use of the highway—referred to as highway presence—will continue to pollute the river and harm salmon populations.  Highway and road surfaces are impervious in nature, and therefore accumulate chemical pollutants and heavy metals from automotive traffic (Wheeler et al 2005).  These pollutants, including zinc, iron, lead, cadmium, nickel, copper, chromium, phosphorus, and petroleum (Ibid) are then transported into the river by stormwater (Sandahl et al 2007).  Studies show that chemical concentrations are directly related to traffic volumes (Wheeler et al 2005).  Thus, projected traffic increases on the SFPR will only increase pollution levels, and affect salmon in numerous ways.

Toxic chemicals can increase the viability and infectivity of parasites (Couillard et al 2008).  This has extreme implications on salmon because they are already prone to numerous fatal parasites that can cause kidney failure, and severe gill damage (Crossin et al 2008).  Further, studies suggest that exposure to chemicals, such as PCBs, can trigger migration earlier than historically observed (Couillard et al 2008).  Early migration has had detrimental effects on salmon populations as they are making their migration during warmer than average periods, which is potentially lethal as salmon are a cold-water species, and sensitive to even slight changes in temperature (Ibid).

Lastly, copper in urban runoff damages the olfactory sensory epithelium in pacific salmon (Sandahl et al 2007).  A major source of copper in runoff is emissions from automotive exhaust and brake pad wear (Couillard et al 2008).  Studies show that “copper is a neurobehavioral toxicant in fish” (Sandahl et al 2007, 2998) damaging their olfactory sensors that they rely on to detect food, navigate to natal spawning grounds, and avoid predators (Ibid).  Mortality rates will therefore increase as salmon will be unable to detect chemical alarm cues and predators, find food, or find natal spawning grounds (Ibid).  Exposure to even modest amounts of copper can cause permanent damage (Ibid).

Studies show that highway growth encourages “sprawling development” and increases urbanization (Cuff 2007).  In turn, this will increase the amount of harmful pollutants being emitted into our atmosphere and our aquatic environments.  Because copper has a wide variety of industrial, commercial and residential uses, copper in urban runoff will continue to increase with urban expansion (Sandahl et al 2007).  As our salmon become increasingly exposed to heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and PCB’s our local food security will continue to be affected.  By consuming contaminated fish people put their own health at risk, impinging on peoples right to food security, food sovereignty, and access to local healthy food—that is if pacific salmon will even be available to consumer.

Because of the Gateway Project, GHG emissions are predicted to increase by 31% (Cuff 2007).  Global warming resulting from an increase in GHG emissions will further increase water temperatures and thus increase salmon mortality in BC.  Increased water temperatures cause extreme exhaustion, energy depletion (Crossin et al 2008), smaller stock size (Cox et al 2008), and susceptibility to disease in Pacific salmon (Crossin et al 2008).  This will therefore decrease reproductive capabilities and increase mortality rates.

Through highway construction, presence, and inevitable urbanization, Gateway’s SFPR will damage the Fraser River and cause mortality among pacific salmon.  Our provincial salmon are currently declining at alarming rates, proving they are living in an already fragile ecosystem.  The SFPR will only contribute to this fragility by polluting the Fraser River, increasing sedimentation, and increasing water temperatures through global warming.  In the face of the Gateway Program, our local salmon have little to no chance of survival—negatively affecting our regions biodiversity, economy and food security.

REFERENCES

Couillard, Catherine M., Robie W. Macdonald, Simon C. Courtenay, Vince P. Palace. 2008. Chemical—environment interactions affecting the risk of impacts on aquatic organisms: A review with a Canadian perspective—interactions affecting exposure. Environmental Review, 16: 1-17.

Cox, Sean P., Scott G. Hinch. 1997. “Changes in size at maturity of Fraser River sockeye salmon (Onchorhynchus nerka) (1952-1993) and associations with temperature.” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54: 1159-1165.

Crossin, G.T., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.W. Welch, D.A. Patterson, S.R.M. Jones, A.G. Lotto, R.A. leggatt, M.T. Mathes, J.M. Shrimpton, G. Van Der Kraak, and A.P. Farrell. 2008. “Exposure to high temperature influences the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migration.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 86:127-140.

Cuff, Nick. 2007. Gateway to global warming. Wilderness Committee Educational Report, 26.2

Farrell, A.P., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.A. Patterson, G.T. Crossin, M. lapointe, M.T. Mathes. 2008. “Pacific Salmon in hot Water: Applying Aerobic Scope Models and Biotelemetry to Predict the Success of Spawning Migrations. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81(6): 697-708

Hume, Mark. 2009. Fraser River’s salmon stocks ‘beyond a crisis.’ Globe and Mail, online, 13 August 2009.

<http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20090813/BCSALMON13BCART2226/Columnists/Columnist?author=Mark+Hume&gt;

Karp, David. 2009. Sockeye salmon numbers crash as bust replaces anticipated bounty on B.C. coast. Vancouver Sun, online, 27 July 2009. <http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Sockeye+salmon+numbers+crash+bust+replaces+anticipated+bounty+coast/1832698/story.html&gt;

Lake, Randal G., Scott G. Hinch. 1999. Acute effects of suspended sediment angularity on juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Canadian Journal of FIsheries and Aquatic Science, 5:862-867.

Rand, P.S., S.G. Hinch, J. Morrison, M.G.G. Foreman, M.J. MacNutt, J.S. Macdonald, M.C. Healey, A.P. Farrell, D.A. Higgs. 2006.  “Effects of River Discharge, Temperature, and Future Climates on Energetics and Mortality of Adult Migrating Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.”  Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 135: 655-667.

Sandahl, Jason F., David H. Baldwin, Jeffrey J. Jenkins, Nathaniel L. Scholz. 2007. A Sensory System at the Interface between urban Stormwater Runoff and Salmon Survival.  Environmental Science and Technology, 41: 2998-3004.

Wheeler, Andrew P., Paul L. Angermeier, Amanda E. Rosenberger. 2005. Impacts of New Highways and Subsequent Landscape Urbanization on Stream habitat and Biota. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 13:141-164.

Wilderness Committee of Western Canada.  n.d.  Stop Gateway.  Retrieved online 15 November 2009 at <http://wildernesscommittee.org/gateway&gt;

If these birds had a voice, I bet they would speak out against the road. Let's give a voice to the voiceless.

I would like to point out that it is not too late for the proposed freeway to be stopped.

Right now, what appears to be freeway construction is not really construction at all; it is merely piles of sand being laid along the proposed freeway’s route. This sandy pre-load must sit for 2-5 years before it is removed and paving can begin. Combine this with our government’s current lack of funds, and it is clear that this freeway is not a done deal.

If the road is being built to accommodate increased container traffic from Deltaport, then it is unnecessary. Decisions to expand the port and construct the SFPR were made prior to the recession, prior to plans for a Panama Canal expansion, and prior to the 14% decrease in port traffic experienced in 2009 – a level that is expected to remain constant throughout 2010.

If the road is being built to decrease congestion, it would fail there as well. Basic transportation planning teaches that when building a new road, people will drive more often, live further away from their place of work, or change their route so that the new road quickly reaches previous levels of congestion.

The Alex Fraser Bridge was constructed with the hopes of reducing congestion on Hwy. 99. It was estimated that it would take seven years to become congested; however, it ended up taking only 9 months!

We need to be seriously considering alternatives to the SFPR. Rail lines from Deltaport could be expanded and electrified. Short-sea shipping, which involves moving containers down the Fraser River by barge, is another option. Both of these would reduce air pollution, truck traffic, and congestion, without paving over our farmland or threatening Burns Bog.

The people of this region need to come together and make our voices heard on this issue.

For the full down low on the SFPR, click here

The Federal Pacific Gateway Strategy is a $10 billion plan to develop the West Coast of BC in order to increase trade with Asia. This includes exporting more of our natural resources, in return for cheap consumer goods.

Here in the Lower Mainland, the Federal Gateway Strategy involves expanding Deltaport to triple its original capacity, as well as expanding rail lines, railway yards, and container terminals. The $4 billion Provincial Gateway Program is working in conjunction with the Federal Gateway Strategy to help facilitate the increased movement of goods, as well as to address congestion in the Lower Mainland. This involves expanding Hwy. 1, building a new Port Mann bridge, the construction of the new North Fraser Perimeter Road (NFPR), and the construction of the new South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR). Right now the Hwy. 1 expansion and the new Port Mann are well underway. However, construction for the NFPR has not begun, and the SFPR is only in its pre-load stage. The SFPR is completely unnecessary, and it still has the potential to be stopped. Instead of spending our money on freeways, we could be spending it on better public transportation, education, and health care, which would contribute to creating more liveable and healthy communities for us all.

The Low Down on the SFPR:

Route: The SFPR would be a 40km long, 80km/h freeway. It would start from Deltaport Way in Delta, going along the northern part of Burns Bog, continuing along the Southern edge of the Fraser River through North Delta, and then connecting up with Hwy. 1 in Surrey.
Congestion: The provincial government has told us that one of the main reasons for the construction of the SFPR is to reduce congestion. However, the SFPR will not reduce congestion over the long-term, and it will only lead to the need to build even more roads. Numerous studies and examples show that when new roads are built, people will take more trips in their vehicles, change their route, invest in new cars, or live further away from their place of work so that the level of congestion returns to the same level it was prior to the new road being constructed. This happened in Vancouver when the Alex Fraser Bridge was built to help reduce congestion on Hwy. 1: It was estimated that it would take 7 years until the road became congested again, but in the end, it ended up taking only 9 months!
Building new roads to reduce congestion is like buying a fat man bigger pants in order to get him to loose weight.
Farmland: At least 1000 acres of farmland would be lost for the construction of the SFPR, much of which is supposed to be protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This isn’t any old farmland being lost either; this is some of the best agricultural land in all of Canada, if not in all of North America. A recent report put out by B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, called the BC Food Self-Reliance Report, said that by 2025 our farmland in BC will need to increase by 49% over 2005 levels if we are to maintain our current level of local food supply. Yet the government is still proposing to build a new freeway that will decrease our farmland, while we will have to rely more heavily upon imports of food from further away — food that may become incredibly expensive or scarce in the face of rising oil prices and a changing climate.
Urban Sprawl: Building a new freeway makes the areas near the freeway more attractive to developers, because it becomes more accessible. With the geography of Vancouver, urban sprawl will necessarily mean developing over more of our farmland. Richmond is a classic example of this: not so long ago it was covered in farmland. The good news is we can still accommodate a growing population in Vancouver without sprawling and without building any new roads: we simply need to densify urban areas and increase public transit. Extensive research at UBC has designed such a plan for Metro Vancouver, and shown this to be possible. (Check out Sustainability by Design (SxD), headed by Patrick Condon at UBC’s school of Architecture and Design)
Burns Bog: Often referred to as the “lungs of the lower mainland”, Burns Bog cleans our air and filters our water. It is the largest undeveloped urban land mass in all of North America, and it is the largest peat bog on the West Coast of North America. It is a fragile and unique ecosystem that is home to a number of rare and endangered species. On top of all this, it is also a huge carbon sink. Throughout the world, peat bogs store 10X as much greenhouse gases in 3X less space than tropical rainforests, therefore the preservation of peat bogs is key to mitigating climate change. The SFPR would be built through Burns Bog, clearing 36 acres of forest along its edge. The freeway would change the composition of the bog by introducing new nutrients to it, as well as threatening the livelihoods of the wildlife that inhabit the bog. (Check out the Burns Bog Conservation Society for more information: www.burnsbog.org)
Air Pollution: The SFPR would be built within 1km of 12 public and private schools, and the exhaust from the diesel truck traffic on this road would pose a number of health risks. Numerous studies show that people who live or work in close proximity to freeways have increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Diesel particulate matter (PM) has been linked to childhood asthma, decreased birth weights, and even cancer. The short-term health effects of diesel exhaust inhalation include eye, nose, throat and bronchial irritation, headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, and nausea.
Alternatives: The good news is… there is another way! Building freeways and urban sprawl are not our only options for development in the Lower Mainland, and this project is not inevitable. To reduce congestion, and free up space on our existing roads for truck traffic, public transportation is a very attractive alternative. This can take the form of fast, frequent, and reliable buses, that are designated their own bus lane and given priority at traffic lights. One designated bus lane has the potential to carry as many people as five passenger car lanes! Bus stops can be designed to be comfortable, and protected from our often cold and rainy winter weather. There are also several options for electric light rail trains that would be fast and convenient, as well as affordable if we are to divert our provincial dollars away from freeways. Another option is to move goods along the Fraser River by barge, rather than by truck. This is called ‘Short-Sea Shipping’, and research has been done to show that this is a cost-effective and very viable option for the region, that would drastically reduce the amount of air pollution coming from diesel trucks.
Not Even Necessary: There is plenty of evidence showing that the port expansion, which the SFPR is supposedly being built to accommodate, isn’t even necessary and that the expected increase in traffic from Asia is not even likely to come. All along the West coast of North America, ports are being, or already have been, expanded. Many of these are sitting at extra capacity. In Northern B.C., the port at Prince Rupert is also under going an expansion, and this is likely to divert traffic away from Deltaport, because Prince Rupert offers a shorter route from Asia by up to three days. The Panama Canal is also undergoing expansion to double its current capacity, and this will offer a shorter route from Asia to Eastern North American markets – right now 60% of the traffic coming to Deltaport is intended for Eastern markets. All of these places undergoing port expansions are surely encountering environmental issues as well, and we can see this trend of building and expanding ports to support international trade increasing around the world. This trend is not sustainable because we live in a world overcome with human-induced ecological destruction and climate change – it’s time to start reversing this trend and developing local economies instead.

The SFPR is a small part of the much larger Gateway Project, therefore it is very symbolic. By taking a stand against the SFPR, and taking action to stop it, we will also be taking a stand on the future of development for not only our region, but for the rest of Canada, and the world. Here are some of the implications of the Gateway Project on both international and national scales.

The Gateway Project…

International:
-Will increase B.C.’s on-road greenhouse gas emissions by 31%
-Will increase our exports of coal to be burned in Asia, with over 20 billion tonnes of coal already being exported yearly
-Is linked to plans to increase coal mining in B.C., with associated greenhouse gas emissions from coal extraction (to learn more about coal mining in B.C., check out this March 2010 report from the Western Wilderness Committee http://wildernesscommittee.org/publication/british_columbia/coal_bc%e2%80%99s_dirty_secret)

National:
-Would mean Canada will be developing its economy in an unsustainable manner well into the future. We would be building our economy around a further reliance upon exporting raw natural resources to Asia, in return for cheap imports of consumer products. These products will then either end up in our landfills, or be incinerated – both of which produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
-Would make the Canadian economy more dependent upon coal extraction, forest harvesting, and tar sands development — industries that are detrimental to our health and environment.
-Would make investments and subsidies towards building a green Canadian economy virtually non-existent, as funds continue to go towards unsustainable industries and infrastructure

For more information, check out the links on the left-hand side of this page.