Fraser Surrey Docks wants to set up a coal transfer operation near the Surrey/ North Delta border that can handle up to four million metric tonnes of coal per year to start and up to eight million tonnes in the long-term.
It has applied to Port Metro Vancouver for approval, but no decision has yet been made.
Westshore Terminals, at Deltaport in South Delta, shipped 27 million tonnes of coal in 2011.
Fraser Surrey Docks' president and CEO Jeff Scott, and Jurgen Franke, director of maintenance and engineering, recently presented their case to Delta council. Delta is reviewing the proposal, though the decision whether to approve or deny it doesn't fall under its jurisdiction.
"We have no control over it whatsoever," Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said.
Fraser Surrey Docks expects to receive project and building permits from PMV by March 1, start construction within that month and be operational by Aug. 1.
Delta has raised its concerns - which include the lack of a full federal or provincial environmental assessment, the impact of coal dust on residents and the environment, inadequate public consultation, noise impacts, impacts on emergency services and coal spill prevention and response - to Port Metro Vancouver.
According to a report by Delta's corporate planning department, the coal would be mined in Montana and Wyoming and be brought through North Delta to Fraser Surrey Docks on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line, which also runs through White Rock and Crescent Beach, by four train engines pushing and pulling as many as 135 container cars. The train's overall length, at its longest, would be just over 2.3 kilometres long.
The plan is to have one train delivery every other day for the first year increasing to two trains per day in the second year.
No coal would be stored at the docks "during normal operations," but rather it would be loaded straight onto barges that tugboats will tow down the Fraser River and on to Texada Island, where the coal would then be stored before being loaded onto deep-sea vessels bound overseas.
George Harvie, Delta's chief administrative officer, has written to Metro Vancouver's CAO Carol Mason to express the municipality's concerns, which "primarily relate to emissions of coal dust from both full and empty coal trains travelling through North Delta."
Moreover, Jackson wrote to Robin Silvester, president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, requesting that all North Delta residents along the BNSF rail line be included in a public consultation process, noting that only 3,200 households in New Westminster, Surrey and Delta have received a mail-out.
"We have heard from many residents that were not aware of the project and have concerns," Jackson wrote.
Fraser Surrey Docks is the largest multipurpose terminal on the West Coast of North America, handling roughly 400 deep-sea vessels each year. Last year, it celebrated its 50th anniversary. Its operators say it is running below capacity and needs to expand "regardless of commodity," with the "least possible adverse impact on our community and stakeholders."
The project, if given the green light, will also increase the City of Surrey's overall coal traffic by at least 10 per cent.
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