To further the debate about council’s decision to locate the proposed GROW facility on more than 20 acres of existing parkland, I have the following comments and questions:
Regional needs and implication
The City insists that this large piece of parkland is the only site suitable for the plant. If built, the GROW plant will process green waste from many surrounding cities and municipalities. There isn’t just a Burnaby need to effectively deal with its green waste, there’s a Regional one. And the region’s needs, including Burnaby’s, can be met regardless of where the plant is located in the Lower Mainland.
Has the City engaged with Metro Vancouver to find other possible sites in the Lower Mainland that do not require building on parkland?
Increased truck traffic and air pollution
The plant, if built, will significantly increase Burnaby’s total truck traffic and the air pollution that comes along with it. The incinerator already contributes to the City’s air pollution; the deliveries of green waste to the plant will increase local air pollution significantly.
How was this increase in local pollution been accounted for in the calculation of environmental costs and benefits of the project?
Do we really want an increase in truck traffic in the City?
History of parkland acquisition
The original report to council dated March 31, 2004, on the acquisition of this land for park states: “This acquisition makes an ecologically significant contribution to the legacy embodied in the public ownership of lands …”
Was this report, or relevant extracts, provided to council to highlight the ecological benefit of these lands prior to the vote to remove them from the park?
Further on, the original report says in respect to the lands in question: “… it is the transition areas between the wet grassland and surrounding shrub to forest areas that produce the most biologically diverse plant and animal communities which are of considerable interest and educational value to park users. Finally, it is important to note that larger natural areas have greater value than smaller segmented parcels as they are more resilient to environmental impacts.”
Not only will a most biodiverse piece of parkland be destroyed, an area of considerable value to citizens and its wildlife, but also its loss will reduce the resilience and viability of what remains.
Bird and other wildlife impacts
90 species of birds are recorded in the area of the park that includes the land in question. And the whole area of Fraser Foreshore Park records over 140 species (eBird data). These numbers reflect birds only, but they are a good indicator of the larger area’s biodiversity being threatened by this proposal.
The report to council says that part of the project will involve “replacing low-quality fish habitat in drainage ditches with a new salmon-supporting tidal marsh and salmon-supporting tidal creeks.”
Can we not do such valuable enhancement anyway, and without spending millions of dollars and destroying good habitat in the process?
Reported elsewhere, and attributed to the Mayor, is that the City believes that it can safely relocate the owls that live in this section of the park. The owls not only inhabit the area under discussion, but also likely range throughout much of the whole park. They don’t just occupy an easily defined area.
Notwithstanding the virtual impossibility of catching particular birds, where would the city expect to find unoccupied habitat?
Relocation can not work here. In human terms this would be like saying: your house is needed for a new development and we have to knock it down, but it’s OK, just move in with your neighbours.
The bottom line is, loss of habitat means irrevocable loss of birds and wildlife.
First Nations land and consultation
I understand that there was an ancient Indigenous trail in that area that connected Musqueam Nation to Ke kite Nation in New Westminster. Has the City undertaken consultation with local First Nations and archaeological work to ensure there will be no further impact on First Nations’ land and history in the area?
Let’s find a suitable location for this valuable GROW facility and not undermine its value by making the wrong choice about its location.
George Clulow, Burnaby
I write in concern and opposition to the proposed GROW facility.
My family has lived in (and out of) Burnaby for three generations, experiencing change for better and worse.
I find a very bitter irony in a city destroying viable and critical wetland to build a “green waste” facility, with claims of reducing environmental impact and creation of clean energy.
The habitat within Fraser Foreshore Park is irreplaceable and finite. A multitude of species such as salmonids, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals require this environment to persevere an already immensely challenged existence. Covering 20acres of this invaluable area with even more concrete in the name of clean energy is laughable. (The surrounding farmland continuously being lost to warehouse offices is also grossly shortsighted and depressing.)
To quote our countries own website canada.ca;
“Approximately 70 per cent of wetlands have been lost in southern areas of Canada—and up to 95 per cent have been lost in densely populated areas.” Wetlands store more carbon than any other ecosystem, they absorb excess water and help prevent floods and droughts, widely seen as critical to helping communities adapt to a changing climate. These critical habitats improve water quality by removing pollutants and provide important habitat for fish and wildlife.
School groups don’t want to see compost ferment. Take them to the existing Foreshore Park to engage in nature.
Even if detailed explanations and specific site reference for the environmental impact offsets were given by council, I am skeptical when “the city says it would create “high-value habitat” for fish, particularly salmon, in the Fraser River.”
These wetlands take thousands upon thousands of years to develop, I am fascinated to see Burnaby City Council “create” them.
I recognize the challenges faced by municipalities in respect to climate, habitat, ecosystems and economy. There is an extremely difficult balance to try and strike. However, I do not see any kind of reasonable balance in this Getting Rid Of Wetlands proposal.