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NEWS: Metro Vancouver calls on Harper to maintain fish habitat protection

The Surrey North Delta Leader reports, “Metro Vancouver is calling on the federal government to maintain fish habitat protection rules in response to widespread fears that Ottawa is poised to greatly weaken the Fisheries Act to speed development. The concern was sparked by a leak of an internal Fisheries and Oceans Canada document last month that suggests the act’s ban on the ‘harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat’ may be watered down to instead ‘reduce the adverse effect’ on fish of economic, cultural or ecological value.”

Metro Vancouver – also known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District – comprises the governments of 21 municipalities including Burnaby, Delta, North Vancouver, Surrey and Vancouver. It represents a combined population of more than 2.2 million people. The primary function of Metro Vancouver is to administer resources and services which are common across the metropolitan area. These include community planning, water, sewage, drainage, housing, transportation, air quality, and parks.

The article notes, “Fish in semi-urban streams in Metro Vancouver might be more at risk if home owners and developers are no longer barred from building walls or other works near the edges of creeks and altering the flow of water, (Metro environment committee chair Heather) Deal said. When major projects do go ahead that damage fish habitat – such as Vancouver’s new convention centre or the South Fraser Perimeter Road – proponents are required to build fish habitat improvements to offset the losses. Deal said she’s concerned that mitigation process could also be lost in any changes. Habitat upgrades are now underway in Metro’s Colony Farm Regional Park to make up for losses incurred through the construction of the new Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 widening.”

“While there’s intense public focus on major projects, particularly pipelines, (Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Craig Orr) said fish habitat could be badly damaged by a plethora of much smaller developments.”

“The motion from the environment committee still has to go to the Metro board.”

The Council of Canadians
We have highlighted how the planned gutting of the Fisheries Act would promote the dumping of the tailings waste from mines into freshwater lakes, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=14384; as well as the Northern Gateway pipeline, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=14397. Both these issues are also noted at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=14144. We have also been very active in opposing the South Fraser Perimeter Road, http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22south+fraser+perimeter+road%22.

The Council of Canadians has endorsed a petition campaign that opposes the changes to the Fisheries Act and that demands “Stop the plan to roll back Canada’s environmental laws”. (The Harper government has also said it will implement legislation that limits environmental assessment reviews to 24 months, National Energy Board hearings to 18 months, and standard environmental assessments to 12 months.) To sign the petition, please go to http://www.envirolawsmatter.ca/petition.