Friday, September 10, 2010

Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal Environmental Concerns Not Addressed

Chief White Disappointed With Port Authority

The Chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN) has voiced “extreme disappointment” over the conduct of the Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) with respect to the proposed Nanaimo cruise ship terminal. In particular, the SFN is dissatisfied with the NPA’s failure to address SFN’s concerns about the how the project will impact the Nanaimo River estuary, including Snuneymuxw fish and marine habitat. “We have a written agreement with the Nanaimo Port Authority that says they will work cooperatively to resolve the environmental concerns we have raised,” said Chief White. “To date the NPA has not addressed these concerns. We have no choice but to proceed to mediation and then to court if no resolution is reached.”

Snuneymuxw First Nation is located in and around the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island. The SFN is comprised of over 1600 members and is one of the few First Nations in British Columbia to have Douglas Treaty-protected rights to fisheries and marine areas throughout their territory.

Chief White also expressed concern about the recent authorization by Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the cruise ship terminal construction work, which permits destruction of over 17,000 square metres of fish habitat by dredging in the Nanaimo River estuary. The SFN hired local environmental experts who concluded that the NPA needed to do much more environmental restoration than the NPA was offering, in order to address the environmental damage that would be caused by the dredging.

“We have been very reasonable with what we have suggested. We hired environmental experts and suggested the restoration of a separate part of the estuary as a form of environmental pay-back. The NPA and DFO have forged ahead without making any commitment to ensure that a meaningful level of restoration occurs” says Chief White. “They have forced us to consider what legal remedies we have. We cannot support the authorization that DFO has issued in light of the failure to address our concerns.”

The Nanaimo estuary is the largest estuary on Vancouver Island and the fifth largest estuary found on coastal British Columbia. The Nanaimo River estuary covers 850 hectares with 250 hectares of inter-tidal salt marsh and upland estuarine pasture, grassland and forest. Estuaries are considered rare ecosystems, covering only 3% of BC’s 27,000 kilometres of coast, but have what is considered by environmentalists to be one of the highest annual value/hectare of all the ecosystems on Earth.


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