Bamberton Dust

SIPS Response to EAO Draft Report

Please read SIPS response to the Environmental Assessment Office regarding why the EAO’s preliminary recommendation to the Environmental Minister was flawed and why an EA (environmental assessment) on the Bamberton Project Expansion is critical.

You can also download a PDF of this document here.


TO: Environmental Assessment Office
AND TO: Honourable Minister George Heyman

Introduction

This is our response to the EAO’s draft Bamberton report dated January 17, 2023 (the Report).

The Report recommends against an environmental assessment because the permit approval process is an adequate substitute. We disagree.

Saanich Inlet is a rare fjord of remarkable beauty, and is the foundation for a thriving tourism industry that includes the Island’s top tourism attraction of Butchart Gardens, and many other businesses. It is also a highly sensitive body of water, because of the lack of tidal flush in the Inlet. Both the remarkable beauty and the quality of this unique body of water may be put at risk – and the many jobs that depend upon the beauty of the Inlet may also be put at risk.

If the permit process had worked from the outset, it might not have been necessary for SIPS to apply for an environmental assessment. However, the process did not work. Our first concern— though not the only one—is the lack of transparency. Our Premier has recognized the problem. Here is what he said in his December 7, 2022 mandate letter to the Minister responsible for EMLI:

I expect you to prioritize making progress on the following:

  • Improve timing and transparency of permitting processes to support sustainable economic development while maintaining high levels of environmental protection.

Does the Minister of Environment really wish to send us back to a process that has been identified at the highest levels of government as a priority for improvement? Doing so would demonstrate that the system is broken and that the citizens’ remedy under section 11 is an illusion.

Significant public concern has been largely ignored: over 180 letters from citizens to decision makers in late 2022, letters and public expressions of concern from several local governments and mayors, two MLA’s representing the communities involved and two First Nations. In addition, countless concerns were raised by the over 200 people who attended the Virtual consultation held by the EAO. These expressions of heartfelt concern are reasoned and reasonable. They speak directly to what is in the public interest.

The website of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy states that the Ministry “is responsible for the effective protection, management and conservation of BC’s water, land, air and living resources.” Therefore, rather than passing off responsibility to other ministries, we urge you to take a robust and comprehensive approach to your mandate, an approach that affirms the purposes set out in section 2 of the Environmental Assessment Act.

These include protection of the environment, the well-being of communities, transparency and impartiality, meaningful public participation and best available science. And bearing in mind the purpose of section 11, which provides an avenue for citizens to request an environmental assessment.

We also urge you to honour the recommendation of the BC government’s own 1996 Saanich Inlet Study which states:

Development proposals in … Saanich Inlet must be assessed in terms of their impact on the environment… all environmental impacts related to a given proposal should be considered not only those required by regulation or permit; attention to non-point source contaminants is a high priority.

We believe that, given the work done to date, an environmental assessment could be conducted in under two years and at the lower end of costs. The work done to date includes the comprehensive Saanich Inlet Study, the work done by the Environmental Assessment office and the technical reports filed by MICO.

An environmental assessment would facilitate reconciliation by providing a venue for First Nations participation. An environmental assessment would address the concerns of communities around Saanich Inlet, communities which are overwhelmingly asking for an environmental assessment.

The Risk to the Environment

Saanich Inlet

The Background section of the report does not do justice to our application. It focuses on the Bamberton site but makes no mention of Saanich Inlet or the issues raised in the application. It describes the industrial site but ignores the receiving environment!

Saanich Inlet

Saanich Inlet is a unique and valuable ecosystem that has been recognized as such by the British Columbia government. Major industrial development (the EAO’s words) is taking place without environmental assessment and widespread public concern is being ignored. In the past, inconsistent proposed development has been rejected in order to protect the unique values of this rare fjord.

Here is what we said in our original request, dated October 28, 2022:

We are writing to request you order an Environmental Assessment under s.35 of the BCEAA for a group of projects at Bamberton. Taken together these projects create significant environmental risk and have not been properly assessed for their potential environmental, economic, social, cultural and health impacts on Saanich Inlet, the surrounding lands and the people who live here.

The Saanich Inlet is the southern-most fjord on the Pacific coast, a unique deep glacial fjord separated from adjacent marine waters by a shallow sill that restricts water inflow. Pollution and contamination of the inlet persists for months and in some cases decades. The potential negative environmental effects of quarrying, and handling of waste materials at Bamberton could have a serious negative impact on the entire marine ecosystem and the thousands of residents living around Saanich Inlet.

We included the following scientific information from the Saanich Inlet Study:

Marine Biology

Marine species such as glass (cloud and boot) sponges and other invertebrates, appear to have healthy populations but are considered at risk due to their sensitivity to direct physical disturbance, habitat loss, and sedimentation. Such species are vulnerable to any activity that resuspends aquatic sediments or causes terrestrial sediments to enter Saanich Inlet. Many marine invertebrate species are long-lived (60-100 years for sponges); therefore, if they are damaged, recovery could take decades.

Cumulative Pollution

If the trend of incremental degradation continues, the environmental quality of Saanich Inlet will worsen. In particular, if non-point pollution sources continue to increase it is expected that further environmental degradation of the inlet will occur. Therefore, it is important that impacts of specific stresses to Saanich Inlet be viewed in the context of all stresses.

Opportunity to Halt Degradation and Restore Environmental Quality

The uses and values of Saanich Inlet can be maintained and/or improved by implementing the recommendations of the Saanich Inlet Study. Saanich Inlet would likely not return to pristine conditions . . . however, there is an opportunity here to halt the degradation and restore the environmental quality of Saanich Inlet.

The Pathway to Pollution

Quarry operations can harm the natural environment through leachate, sedimentation, dust, and blasting. Loading and unloading barges also creates dust. Transporting contaminated soil by barge creates a risk of spills into the marine environment.

The mechanism by which industrial activities can affect the environment is sometime referred to as the “effects pathway”. The following diagram illustrates the effects pathway for Bamberton and Saanich Inlet.

Pathways of Effects for Stressors from Bamberton Quarry

For example, airborne dust can smother benthic animals and clog gills. Dust mitigation plans have been prepared but they do not consider the marine environment. The following is from the dust mitigation plan for the foreshore lease:

This plan has been developed to control the offsite transport of fugitive dust to prevent it from becoming a nuisance visibly or physically for local residents and property owners… this plan is to address fugitive dust from adversely impacting the public, which includes surrounding local residents and property owners.

The dust mitigation plan for the quarry has similar language.

Of course it is essential to avoid nuisance to neighbours. However, the dust mitigation plans do not demonstrate an awareness of the marine environment, whatsoever.

The photographs below show the dust plume from barge loading.

Dust from Bamberton Quarry
Dust form Bamberton Quarry & Barge

Here is an illustration of cumulative impacts in Saanich Inlet.

Cumulative Impacts In Saanich Inlet

The Permit Process is No Substitute for an Environmental Assessment

The Report says that the permit process is “robust and comprehensive” and can take the place of an environmental assessment. In our view, however, the permit process is no substitute for an environmental assessment because it is not transparent and does not assess environmental risk.

Lack of Transparency

The permit process takes place in secret and is not transparent.

a) Continual expansion with no assessment

The quarry has expanded several times “under the radar”, reaching a size that, for a new project, would automatically require environmental assessment. If the current application is approved, the quarry will have reached an annual production of 479,000 tonnes. This is nearly twice the annual production– 250,000 tonnes–that automatically requires an environmental assessment under the Reviewable Projects Regulation. Yet no environmental assessment has ever been done. This does not inspire confidence in the existing permitting process.

b) Lack of public consultation

The Guide to Preparing Mine Permit Applications for Aggregate Pits and Quarries in British Columbia, is referenced in the Report as part of the permit process. The “Public Consultation Overview” says:

As part of the mine project review process, proponents should consider an effective approach to distributing project information and consulting with the public. Public consultation should take a variety of forms and can include public meetings and open houses, one-on-one meetings with interested parties, publication of articles on a particular project, and/or notices in community newspapers.

In contrast, the Proponent, as far as we are aware, did not consult with the public. To this date, in spite of the application being more than three years old, there have been no public meetings, open houses or one-on-one meetings with interested parties, except for the virtual information session required by the EAO. The proponent has not published articles in newspapers to explain their plans to the community.

Notice of the application (as distinct from articles) was posted in newspapers only after being required by EMLI, and then only in the CVRD. No notice was given to the majority of citizens and municipalities around Saanich Inlet, including Willis Point, Brentwood and North Saanich. Or to the municipalities, such as Highlands, Central Saanich and North Saanich which have responsibility for the shoreline. The absence of notice to Central Saanich and Willis Point residents is particularly egregious – residents there are immediate neighbours directly across the water, and in both eyesight and earshot of the project. A sign posted on the property, apparently on a private road off a busy highway was unlikely to be seen.
As of October 30, 2022 it was not possible to get the application information electronically. One had to go to the Mill Bay library to see it. It was placed in the library only after EMLI began receiving letters of concern and asked MICO to do so.

Until SIPS applied under s.11, the Proponent distributed no project information. Only after our application did MICO file a series of technical reports with the EAO, commissioned by Coast Mountain Resources (2020) Ltd.

Most of these reports are dated December 7, 2022. But the application to expand the quarry was filed in 2019. Were these technical reports required by the permit process, suddenly, three years after the application? We suggest that these reports would likely not have been done if we had not made the s. 11 application. What kind of permit process would proceed for three years without obtaining basic reports?

On December 21, 2022 – under pressure from the s. 11 process — MICO revised its quarry application, reducing the new disturbance area from 18 ha proposed in 2019 to 6.4 ha. This was only done at the last minute. For three years in the permitting process, that reduction had not occurred. It was only when the scrutiny of an alternative environmental assessment process loomed that suddenly the project area was reduced. The permit process itself had failed to hone or improve the proposed project.

c) Community values

Section 4.7 of the Guide deals with Community Values:

Successful aggregate operations minimize conflicts with neighbours and have the support of nearby communities. This support is built on an understanding of and respect for community values, which should be incorporated into business operating procedures. The following considerations are recommended to assist in developing positive community relationships:

  • Consult with neighbors in a sincere manner
  • Be innovative in minimizing noise, dust and vibration
  • Minimize visual impacts to the landscape. Minimize disruption to local footpaths and public areas.
  • Participate in community events and projects

In contrast, the Proponent has not minimized conflict with neighbours and does not have the support of nearby communities. There has been no sincere consultation with neighbours. Minimization of dust, noise and vibration has not been innovative. Visual impacts were not addressed until after our s.11 application. There has been no participation in community events and projects that we are aware of.

Willis Point residents can hear the quarry operating, see the dust, feel and hear the blasting and see the 13 bright lights at night. Not one resident has been consulted since the quarry opened.

d) No opportunity to learn how concerns have been addressed

The permit process offers little opportunity for members of the public to learn how their concerns have been addressed. For example, one of our concerns is terrain stability.The Report says that:

The permit amendment application has been referred to an EMLI geotechnical engineer and mines inspector to assess the mine plan regarding terrain stability risks and water management. Input from the geotechnical specialists may inform additional Mines Act application requirements, proponent mitigations, and/or permit conditions to mitigate related risks.

Under the existing permit process, there will be no way for the public to know what the EMLII geotechnical engineer determines. Furthermore, if the engineer’s assessment concludes that the depth of the quarry is undesirable, the proponent could revert to a design with a larger disturbance area, without any public input.

e) Minister’s mandate letter

Finally, as noted above, the minister’s mandate letter of December 7, 2022 prioritizes improving “timing and transparency of permit processes”. We should not be required to direct our concerns to a process that is already in priority need of improvement.

The Permit Process Does Not
Assess Environmental Risk

The EAO’s website describes environmental assessments as follows:

The environmental assessment process ensures that any potential environmental, economic, social, cultural and health effects that may occur during the lifetime of a major project are thoroughly assessed.

This is not the function of permit approvals. There is no requirement to assess the surrounding environment and the potential risks to that environment.

The citizens of BC care deeply about the marine environment, yet the Report seems to take the view that what happens to the marine environment is no concern of the Province. EMLI did not refer the quarry application to DFO, for example (s.6.1.5.1).

The EAO requested input from DFO but there was no response. Do the federal agencies have no interest? Have they been unable to review the matter due to lack of staff? The absence of a response does not inspire confidence in the permit process.

Treaty Negotiations & Costs

It is important to note that the Report acknowledges that an environmental assessment would support reconciliation with the Tsawout and Tsartlip First Nations. Nevertheless, it goes on to say that an environmental assessment would be harmful to treaty negotiations and Malahat First Nation.

We would first like to state, as we have stated before, that SIPS is committed to, and actively supports, reconciliation with First Nations, especially those living around Saanich Inlet. Our mission is to conserve and restore the already damaged ecosystems of the Inlet for the benefit of everyone. We recognise and support environmentally sustainable uses of the Bamberton site by the Malahat First Nation and its subsidiary and affiliated economic enterprises. Our request for an EA reflects our concern that some of the presently proposed uses may further damage the ecosystems of the Inlet.

Benefits of an Environmental Assessment

An environmental assessment could facilitate reconciliation because an assessment would provide a venue for all affected First Nations to participate. Rather than requiring First Nations to deal with a government official, they could be part of the process. According to the EAO User Guide:

Under the Act, all Indigenous nations that may be adversely affected by a project can opt to be a participating Indigenous nation.

Broad procedural rights are granted and affirmed to participating Indigenous nations throughout the Act in alignment with the UN Declaration and the reconciliation purpose of the EAO. These rights include:

  • A clear process for seeking consensus;
  • Opportunities to communicate consent or lack of consent at key milestones;
  • An opportunity for the nation to carry out the components of the effects assessment that pertain to their nation and its rights (section 19(4) Assessments);
  • Access to facilitated dispute resolution; and
  • Representation on Technical or Community Advisory Committee(s)

As well, an environmental assessment would address the concerns of neighbouring communities and possibly gain some level of support. These concerns are not going to go away until they are properly considered. As we understand it, the Environmental Assessment Act will continue to apply after a treaty is in place. The Te’Mexw Treaty Association Agreement-In-Principle dated April 9, 2015 states, at s.5:

For greater certainty, Federal and Provincial Law in relation to Environmental Assessment apply on Treaty Settlement Lands.

This seems to mean that, even after a treaty, it will be possible to apply for an environmental assessment under s.11, the next time MICO seeks to expand the quarry. Would it not be better to hold an assessment now and chart a course for the future?

Treaty Negotiations

The Report does not explain how an environmental assessment would jeopardize treaty negotiations. We see nothing in the Te’Mexw Treaty Association Agreement-In-Principle that would be put in jeopardy by an environmental assessment. Surely, if there were a concern about treaty negotiations, the EAO would have heard from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. According to the Report, the Ministry was invited to participate but did not make a submission.

The Report says that “parts of the area surrounding the Bamberton quarry may become Malahat Nation treaty lands”. If this does not include the Bamberton quarry itself, why would an assessment of environmental risk to Saanich Inlet, due to activities in the quarry, jeopardize treaty negotiations?

Costs

Environmental assessments cost money. We don’t wish to minimize this. However, in 2023, major industrial developments must protect the environment. The quarry surely generates millions of dollars in revenue annually and the sought-after permit would last 30 years. Quarry operations would continue during an environmental assessment, so the quarry would continue to generate revenue.

In the short term, the cost of an environmental assessment would likely be borne by Coast Mountain Resources (2020) Ltd., the site operator. CMR has been responsible for all the technical reports filed in December, 2022.

CMR is a large company which, according to its website, offers “a wide range of quality crushed aggregate products and services to Greater Victoria and South Vancouver Island. Our barge facility has the advantage of extending that service to West Coast marine markets in British Columbia.” CMR is part of a larger group, known as Hall Constructors.

We recognize that an environmental assessment would take some time. However, the first two phases of a typical assessment—early engagement and EA readiness—will have been largely accomplished already. Even the process planning stage can probably be shortened due to the work already done, including the Saanich Inlet Study and the technical reports prepared for Coast Mountain Resources (2020) Ltd.

We believe that a suitable environmental assessment should be possible in under two years and at the lower end of costs.

To the extent that costs are an impediment to holding an environmental assessment, we suggest that the Government of British Columbia contribute to the costs. Doing so would be consistent with the Saanich Inlet Study, would facilitate reconciliation with First Nations and would benefit the environment.

Barging of Contaminated Material

In this section we address the Report’s failure to recognize the barging of contaminated soil as an “eligible project”.

Barging contaminated soil is acknowledged in the Report at s.6.2.6, as part of our application. However, the discussion of whether foreshore activities are eligible projects does not mention this activity. We believe the reason for this may be found in s.7.1, which says:

The primary considerations for determining if a project has substantially started are in relation to the completion of physical project activities (e.g. construction or operation) and physical project components.

We believe the emphasis on physical components is misplaced in the case of a s.11 application concerning an activity, rather than a physical work. The Environmental Assessment Act, defines “project”as:

  • (a) any activity that has or may have adverse effects, or
  • (b) any construction, operation, modification, dismantling or abandonment of a physical work; (underlining added)
    The definition of “project” includes physical works but it also includes activities. Barging contaminated soil is an activity.

The EAO’s Substantial Start Determination Policy does not apply in this case because it applies to
s.31 of the Environmental Assessment Act, not s.11.

The decision in Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Environment), 2014 BCSC 1278, does not apply in our situation. The decision is referenced on p.7 of the Policy as authority for the following proposition:

Based on the definition of “project” in the Act, the substantial start determination should address “primarily physical activities affecting the land environmentally, as contrasted with bureaucratic activities, for example, which do not.”

However, Taku River concerned a mine for which there was an environmental assessment certificate. The issue was whether the mine had been “substantially started”. In that context—a mine being a physical work—of course the decision came down to how much of the physical works had been started. This has no application to our s.11 application, which concerns an activity, not a physical work.

There seems to have been some confusion about this in the EAO. For example, the EAO letter of November 18, 2022 referred to “Modification of an Existing Marine Port Project”. And on January 10, 2023, the EAO posted on the EPIC website, the following statement referring to our
s.11 application:

There would be no new shoreline disturbance as a result of the modification of the marine port project.

We requested a correction, pointing out that “There is no proposed “modification of a marine port project” in this case.” In spite of this, the Report includes the following information at s.7.1.2:

The foreshore lease for the marine dock has previously been authorized by FOR and has substantially started with all physical structures, including pilings and dock structures, already in place. As such, it would not be required by the RPR to undergo an assessment under the Act. The marine dock is currently in operation and no new physical works would occur as part of the proposed lease extension, except for the repair or replacement of existing pilings, which was previously authorized by FOR and is integral to the continued operations of the existing marine port project.

This paragraph is irrelevant to our application and we ask that it be removed.

More importantly, we ask that the final Report acknowledge that the barging of contaminated soil, including unloading in the lease area, is an “eligible project” for the purpose of s.11. It is an activity that may have adverse effects and has not been substantially started.

Perhaps the reason barging contaminated soil is not recognized as an “eligible project” is that it is understood to be permitted under the current lease. However, it does not matter whether it is permitted in the current lease. What matters is whether that activity has substantially started. Clearly, it has not.

Once the barging of contaminated soil is acknowledged as an eligible project, we assume that the EAO would reach the same conclusions in the rest of the Report as it did for the quarry. Our objections to those conclusions are also the same. The only exception is that s.11(4)(c) of the Environmental Assessment Act does not apply because barging of contaminated soil is not within a category of projects described in the Reviewable Projects Regulation.

Hydrocarbons

The Report says, in s.7.1.2, that hydrocarbon storage is not an eligible project because the existing huge storage tanks have not been abandoned and are authorized under the existing management plan.

We also learned in mid-January that the storage tanks may not be within the boundaries of the foreshore lease and might be removed from the Management Plan. At that time, we clarified that our application includes barging of hydrocarbons in addition to storage of hydrocarbons. This was specified in our original application dated November 4, 2022.

We note that an activity is not substantially started simply because it may be authorized in a permit. The issue, therefore, is whether barging and storage of hydrocarbons as an activity has substantially started.

As to whether the storage tanks have been abandoned, our best information is that they have not been used for 40 years. However, the Report says that, according to the Proponents, storage of hydrocarbons remains a contemporary use of the site and the tanks “were last used in approximately 2015”. This is a vague statement and we have seen no evidence to confirm that assertion.

We ask that, before you consider rejecting the storage and barging of hydrocarbons as an eligible project, you seek information about the use of the storage tanks in 2015 and whether the fuel arrived by barge.

Potential Effects Equivalent to a Reviewable Project

In this section we address the awkward wording of s.11(4)(c) of the Environmental Assessment Act. We suggest that the Report’s analysis of the section is not correct. Section 11(4)(c) states:

if the eligible project is in a category of projects described in a regulation under section 9, whether the potential effects of the eligible project will be equivalent to or greater than the potential effects of projects in that category that are reviewable projects

In our letter of November 24, 2022 we said that the quarry project is within the category of “Construction Stone and Industrial Mineral Quarries”. However, the Report concludes that the category is “modification of an existing quarry”:

[the effects of] the proposed Bamberton quarry expansion would not be equivalent or greater than potential effects of a project in the modification of an existing quarry category of the RPR.”

In s.11(4)(c), the “category of projects” and “that category” referred to in the section mean the same thing and they refer to quarries in general, not to quarry modification.

Set out below is a screenshot of Table 6 of the Reviewable Projects Regulation. It is clear from the Table that the “project category” is “Construction Stone and Industrial Mineral Quarries”. “New Project” and “Modification of Existing Project” are obviously not project categories.

Mine Projects

So, the correct comparison is between the eligible project at Bamberton—the increase in size and production volume—and a new quarry having a production capacity of 250,000 tonnes annually.

Increasing production capacity by 229,000 tonnes (to 479,000 tonnes) yearly with an increase in disturbance area of 6.5 ha (to nearly 46 hectares) would clearly have potential effects equivalent to those of a new quarry with a production capacity of 250,000 tonnes. Quarry operations have potential to harm the natural environment through leachate, sedimentation, dust, blasting and, in this case, barge operations.

We ask you to reconsider your conclusion on this criterion.\

The SSF

The recent change in the proposed boundary of the quarry raises concerns about the contaminated soil containment cell, also known as the “soil storage facility” or SSF. The SSF contains huge quantities of contaminated soil and other materials.

Disturbing the SSF is a real and potentially catastrophic possibility. There will be blasting, heavy equipment working all around it and heavy truck transport passing close by every working day.

Although this facility is not new—i.e. it has been “substantially started”–it is a concern in relation to the quarry enlargement, since the SSF will no longer be part of the quarry. We have been told that this facility is being monitored but we are not clear what the regulatory requirements are. We have seen no evidence of annual reports being filed. In the absence of some other regulatory requirement, removing the SSF from the quarry would seem to mean that there would be no oversight of this facility on private land.

Section 2 – The Purpose of the EAO

The Report’s discussion of s.2 of the Environmental Assessment Act is disappointing. It largely ignores our submission of November 24, 2022. It prejudges the outcome of an environmental assessment, seems to say that an environmental assessment would not be consistent with protecting the environment, ignores our arguments about the economy and discusses irrelevant matters.

Section 11(4)(d) requires the Minister to consider whether an assessment of the projects in question is consistent with the purposes set out in section 2 of the Environmental Assessment Act. Section 2 purposes include:

  • promoting “sustainability by protecting the environment and fostering a sound economy and the well-being of British Columbians and their communities”.
  • facilitating meaningful public participation

We addressed each of these considerations in our letter of November 24, 2022 but our comments are not considered in the Report. The Report’s conclusion on s.2 is the following:

Based on the available information, the EAO does not believe that designating the Bamberton Projects as reviewable would promote sustainability by protecting the environment and fostering a sound economy and the well-being of British Columbians and their communities.

The remainder of the Report’s s.2 discussion is largely irrelevant.

a) Protecting the environment

Recall that the language of s.11(4)(d) is whether an assessment would be “consistent with” the purposes set out in s.2. So, what the above statement from the Report is really saying is that an environmental assessment would not be consistent with environmental protection. This is a surprising statement. Surely it is beyond dispute that an environmental assessment would be consistent with protecting the environment.

b) Fostering a sound economy

There is no discussion of the points we made in our letter of November 24, 2022 concerning the economy. We said that the projects—including barging contaminated soil—have the potential to harm the local economy. We pointed out that two important drivers of the local economy are tourism and real estate.

The viewscape of Saanich Inlet contributes to a very significant tourism industry at Butchart Gardens, Brentwood Bay Resort, Pacifica Paddling, Angler’s Marina, Sea Horse Cafe, Blues Bayou, etc. Indeed, Butchart Gardens the number one tourism attraction on southern Vancouver Island, is in the immediate vicinity of the expanded quarry. Biking tour companies now draw visitors from around the world to bike from Brentwood Bay, to the Mill Bay ferry and through the Cowichan Valley wine country. Recreational divers and paddlers frequent the Inlet. If the Bamberton projects are not managed in a way that takes these things into account, those tourism jobs are put at serious risk.

An environmental assessment could determine what visual quality analysis can be done to protect all those off-site permanent jobs. One way to address the impacts on adjacent tourism jobs would be to require stringent progressive reclamation of the site — and to require that mined-out areas are reclaimed as soon as they are mined out, before mining the adjacent area.

The impact on these and other businesses, and the balance with the need for an expansion of the industrial quarry in this location are matters that can be addressed by an environmental assessment. An environmental assessment would be “consistent with” fostering a sound economy.

c) Well-being of communities

The Report does not discuss the well-being of communities. As we said in our November 24th letter, the well-being of communities around Saanich Inlet is already being negatively affected and will be even more negatively affected by the Projects. The communities are affected by: environmental risk (including potential exposure to the cost of remediation of any damage), visual impact, noise, dust and light pollution from 13 lights and a 24/7 operation.

These issues impact communities all around Saanich Inlet. The noise of blasting can be heard and bright lights can be seen in Brentwood Bay, Tsartlip First Nation and other First Nations, marinas, other nearby areas, such as Willis Point.
An environmental assessment would be consistent with fostering the well-being of communities.

d) Meaningful public participation

There is no discussion of meaningful public participation in s.7.5 of the Report. We have addressed this elsewhere in this letter.

e) Prevention vs prosecution

The Report says:

In addition, if potential effects were to occur relating to fish habitat and marine shipping, they are in areas of primarily federal responsibility and are managed through legislation, including the Fisheries Act and Canada Shipping Act, which the Proponents, quarry operator, and lease users must comply with.

An environmental assessment would identify risks and propose measures to prevent harm before it happens. That is a main purpose of the Environmental Assessment Act. It is cold comfort to know the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could prosecute after the fact, or propose replacement habitat in another location!

Thermal Desorption & Shipbreaking

We note that thermal desorption has been discontinued and the Report states that “If proposed, a new contaminated soil treatment facility (e.g. thermal desorber) could be an eligible project for designation under the Act”.

We also understand that FOR has stated that shipbreaking will not be authorized under the foreshore lease.

The Public Interest

Although public comment is not the only measure of the public interest, it is one measure. In addition to the huge volume of correspondence and expressions of concern before we made our s.11 application, there has been an outpouring of support for an environmental assessment during the public comment period.

In addition, section 2 of the Environmental Assessment Act lists many of the elements of the public interest. All of these elements point to the need for an environmental assessment.

It is in the public interest to sustain public confidence in environmental assessment legislation. Section 11 seems tailor-made for this situation. Granting our application would help to sustain public confidence.

Summary of Section 11 Considerations

To summarize, here are our conclusions on the considerations set out in s.11(4), as discussed above:

  • (a) whether the applicant is an Indigenous nation – NO
  • (b) whether the eligible project could have effects on an Indigenous nation and the rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 – YES, THE ELIGIBLE PROJECT COULD HAVE NEGATIVE EFFECTS ON AT LEAST TWO FIRST NATIONS.
  • (c) if the eligible project is in a category of projects described in a regulation under section 9, whether the potential effects of the eligible project will be equivalent to or greater than the potential effects of projects in that category that are reviewable projects – YES, THE POTENTIAL EFFECTS WOULD BE EQUIVALENT TO OR GREATER
  • (d) whether an assessment of the eligible project is consistent with the purposes set out in section 2 – YES, AN ASSESSMENT WOULD BE CONSISTENT WITH EVERY ELEMENT OF SECTION 2.

Conclusion

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy “is responsible for the effective protection, management and conservation of BC’s water, land, air and living resources.” Therefore, rather than passing off responsibility to other ministries, we urge you to take a robust and comprehensive approach to your mandate, an approach that affirms the purposes set out in section 2 of the Environmental Assessment Act: protection of the environment, the well- being of communities, transparency and impartiality, meaningful public participation and best available science. An approach that breathes life into section 11, which provides an avenue for citizens to request environmental assessment.

We also urge you to honour the recommendation of the BC government’s own Saanich Inlet Study which states:

Development proposals in… Saanich Inlet must be assessed in terms of their impact on the environment … all environmental impacts related to a given proposal should be considered not only those required by regulation or permit; attention to non-point source contaminants is a high priority.

We believe that, given the work done to date, an environmental assessment could be conducted in under two years and at the lower end of costs. The work done to date includes the comprehensive Saanich Inlet Study, the work done by the Environmental Assessment office and the technical reports filed by MICO.

In other words, we urge you to recommend to the Minister that the Bamberton projects be designated as reviewable projects.
If costs are an impediment to holding an environmental assessment, we urge you to recommend that the Government of British Columbia contribute to the costs. Doing so would be consistent with the Saanich Inlet Study, would facilitate reconciliation with all affected First Nations and would benefit the environment and communities.

We will be filing a separate document listing requested changes in the Report, section by section.

Thank you for your consideration.

Eric Falkenberg-Poetz
President, Saanich Inlet Protection Society
On behalf of the Board of Directors

John Pennington
Member, Saanich Inlet Protection Society

The recipients of this letter are listed in the downloadable PDF.

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