Town Hall Meeting – January 20th, 2018

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As we head into a new year I want to bring you up to speed on our ongoing fight against the establishment of new Freighter Anchorages off the NE coast of Gabriola.

I will begin by inviting you to a town hall discussion on anchorages on Saturday January 20th from 3 to 5 PM at The Phoenix Theatre at The Haven, 240 Davis Road. We’ll have a presentation on what’s been going on over the last few months, and talk about where our campaign is heading and how you can help. Please join us and bring your ideas and questions.

Below is a bit of what’s been happening:

Federal Review of Anchorages:

As a result of all of our letters, petitions, media articles and meetings with government and industry officials, the federal government has finally and publicly acknowledged the legitimacy of many of our concerns, including the impacts of noise, lights, anchor chain scouring, etc. And they say they are taking them seriously. (We shall see.)

Late last summer, Transport Canada also publicly acknowledged that there is currently no government oversight or management of any of the 29 anchorages throughout the Southern Gulf Islands Region.

Just think about that for a moment. In the course of a year well over 100 huge ocean-going freighters, travel to and from the Port of Vancouver and stay at anchor within Gulf Island waters for weeks at a time, in close proximity to island and coastal neighborhoods with NO formal regulation or enforcement.

Transport Canada also confirmed what we’ve known for a while: that no agency currently has the authority to designate new anchorages outside of Port boundaries.

The good news is that they’ve finally promised to address both of these issues in a process that will include broad public consultation, including with GAFA.

The bad news is it is far from certain that they will do so in a way that protects island communities like ours.

Early indications are that the government is leaning towards asking for voluntary measures for the shipping industry—things like “best practices” and unenforceable “guidelines” that would allow things to continue much as they are now. We will be pushing for much more, including solid business case analysis justifying use of existing anchorages, solutions to “parking problems” that do not rely on expansion of anchorage sites in Gulf Island waters, independent study of the impacts of anchorages, and new legislation and regulations to protect communities.

The Movement Is Spreading:

Over the course of 2017, members of GAFA have built strong relationships and have been sharing ideas and information with other groups opposed to Gulf Island anchorages that have started to coalesce on Pender Island, Thetis Island, in Cowichan Bay, and in other island communities. While GAFA’s number one priority remains the prevention of the new anchorages proposed in 2015 for our NE Coast, we are all benefiting by sharing information and working together to lobby against Gulf Island anchorages overall. More and more people are questioning the rationale that allows such a serious level of heavy marine industrial activity in and around the Gulf Islands, and are demanding that every step possible be taken to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the inefficiencies in the Port of Vancouver supply chain that has led to so much unwarranted overflow parking.

Research:

GAFA volunteers have spent countless hours this past year researching a wide range of topics that will help us make our case to the federal government, The Port of Vancouver, and the shipping Industry.

We are currently tracking ship movements and analyzing data from various sources to better understand the true picture of anchorage use outside of the Port, including the extraordinarily long wait times at anchor, inexplicable juggling of ships from one anchorage location to another, and so on.

We are in the process of collaborating with academics and environmental NGOs who are interested in the health and environmental impacts of the shipping industry on marine ecosystems and coastal communities.

We’ve had conversations and are sharing information with coastal First Nations who share many of the same concerns.

We continue to build our understanding of the vast variety of flora and fauna that live around our shores, and have been engaging a variety of experts, including divers who have provided valuable video of the sea bed in the proposed anchorage areas. All of this information will be used to press our case.

Media and Public Pressure:

As time drags on, it is easy for people to lose track of, or even lose interest in, this important issue. Our volunteers have been working hard to keep the message alive at public events, in the media, and on social media, with lawn signs, etc.

We will need to step up this campaign in the months ahead, especially outside of Gabriola, as government officials get closer to making decisions. At the Town Hall meeting and in subsequent newsletters, we will be discussing ways you can help get our message out both to the public and directly to key decision makers.

In conclusion:

It’s been a long haul already. (Two and a half years, but who’s counting?) The fight is far from over, but building on the great work that has been done so far and the support from so many in our community, we remain committed to getting the job done. Gabriola is too beautiful a place to be spoiled by industrial activity that has no upside, and many, many downsides for our community. It’s up to us to hold our governments accountable and to protect our environment and the quality of our lives.

I hope to see you on January 20th, 3PM at The Phoenix Theatre, at The Haven.

Sincerely,

Chris Straw

President, Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages

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