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City of Richmond Councillor Harold Steves has been circulating this article  written by Larry Pynn from the Vancouver Sun. While the Port of Vancouver has been saying the planned $2 billion dollar container expansion at Roberts Bank located beside the BC Ferry Terminal in Tsawwassen has minimal impact on migratory shorebirds, Environment Canada is disagreeing.

Indeed, Environment Canada is saying that the planned expansion can have the “risk of significant adverse environmental effects” to the habitat of migratory shorebirds, especially western sandpipers.

It turns out that Roberts Bank is one of the most important stopover sites for migrating shorebirds on this coast. A thin, but highly productive, layer of biofilm at Roberts Bank is unlike any other in the region and is critical to fuel the breeding migration of hundreds of thousands of sandpipers to Alaska.There are no equivalent habitats within the estuary or delta to support their migration in the event that biofilm within the project area were to be compromised,” the letter warns.

Ongoing research suggests that “omega-3 fatty acids produced (within the biofilm) may be critical for shorebirds to undertake long-distance migrations,” the letter reads. “If migration is compromised, the long-term viability of western sandpipers as a species would be adversely affected given that a large proportion of the species uses the Roberts Bank area as a stopover site during northward migration. “Biofilm represents an estimated 60 per cent of the sandpipers’ diet during migration. A flock of 100,000 slurps up about 20 tonnes per tidal cycle.”

The Port has responded that they would send a letter through the independent review panel process.  Are we overdeveloping migratory shore bird habitats in the metro region to the point that the migrations may cease to exist? When does sensitive habitat trump industrial expansion?

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