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Delta/Richmond chapter opposes removal of George Massey Tunnel under the Fraser River

George Massey Tunnel

George Massey Tunnel. Photo credit.

The Council of Canadians Delta/Richmond chapter is concerned that the proposed removal of the George Massey Tunnel could affect the salinity of the lower Fraser River.

The George Massey Tunnel is a highway traffic tunnel in Metro Vancouver that is located about 20 kilometres south of Vancouver city centre. The four-lane highway goes under the south arm of the Fraser River estuary and joins the municipalities of Richmond and Delta. The tunnel opened in 1959. In September 2012, Premier Christy Clark announced plans to replace the tunnel within 10 years. A year later, she announced that construction of a bridge to replace the tunnel would begin in 2017.

If the tunnel were to be removed it would mean a free flow and salt water from the ocean could be pushed further up the river. This would impact on farmers who depend on the river for irrigation.

The Richmond News reports, “Richmond resident John ter Borg, who holds a masters degree in land and water systems, has been consulting with concerned farmers and environmentalists on the issue.”

Ter Borg is also a chapter activist with the Delta/Richmond chapter.

The news report adds, “Ter Borg explained that the river has a ‘salt wedge’, which is the layer of dense ocean water that flows upstream beneath the river’s fresh water outflow. The salt wedge is primarily influenced by three factors: river flow (discharge), tidal fluctuations (sea level) and channel depth (dredging), noted ter Borg. Climate change is likely to affect the first two factors while the removal of the tunnel would facilitate the third factor. As the climate warms, there will be less snow and ice melt to feed the river, allowing the salt wedge to penetrate further up the river. This problem will be compounded by rising sea levels, which will contribute to higher salinity in the river. Meanwhile, drier summers will create a greater demand for fresh water.”

The natural depth of the river is 5 metres. The river is now to dredged to a depth of 11.5 metres. The article notes, “Port Metro Vancouver and Fraser Surrey Docks have expressed the desire to dredge to about 13.2 metres in depth, while the Richmond Chamber of Commerce has noted ships may require 18 metres in the future.”

The Delta/Richmond chapter has also been working to defend the Fraser River by speaking against a proposed FortisBC LNG port that would mean hundreds of massive LNG tankers on the river every year. They are also opposing a plan to construct a marine terminal and jet fuel tank farm on the banks of the Fraser River. That project would see jet fuel shipped in barges and Panamax-class tanker ships the length of three football fields up the river to a tank farm on the south arm of the Fraser River. From there, the jet fuel would move through a 15-kilometre underground pipeline to the airport.

On Oct. 28, the chapter held a ‘Tale of Two Rivers’ public forum in Richmond. They asked, “What kind of future do you envision for the Fraser River – the world’s Greatest Salmon River? A heavily industrialized corporate lifeless water way or a thriving river full of life?” Ter Borg was one of the featured speakers at that forum.

For an 18-minute video of his presentation at that forum, please click here.

Further reading
Delta/Richmond chapter opposes LNG terminal on the Fraser River (Oct. 28, 2015)
Delta/Richmond chapter opposes jet fuel terminal on the Fraser River (Dec. 12, 2014)