Impact assessment agency of Canada interim report an incomplete analysis omitting a number of important facts
Studies in recent years and the most recent data show that Laurentia’s impact on the new species of striped bass, which was reintroduced into the St. Lawrence in the early 2000s, will be limited. According to the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks (MFFP), this fish population now has at least two, and probably more, natural breeding grounds. As for sturgeon, they have been found to frequent the St. Charles River Estuary and not the Beauport Bay sector. Impacts on the various fish species can therefore be offset through appropriate measures. In addition, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) ruled in 2019 that the striped bass currently in the St. Lawrence could not be considered the “same species” as the one that disappeared previously, and that its current status of “endangered” should therefore be reviewed.
Port activities have a negligible impact on air quality
According to recent studies by recognized experts, Port of Québec operations account for less than 3% of all dust fallout in areas surrounding its facilities. Although its impact on air quality is negligible, the Québec Port Authority (QPA) hopes for a quick resumption of discussions with other players in the industrial zone in order to reduce overall particulate matter present in neighbourhoods adjacent to the industrial zone. It should be noted that, according to a Public Health study conducted in 2019, firewood accounts for 60% of the fine particles present in Limoilou in winter. The second biggest source is mainly industry and transport.
A truck bypass
Laurentia will have a limited impact on truck traffic, which is estimated to increase by 7% on Boulevard Henri-Bourassa once the terminal is fully operational around 2035. In order to eliminate this impact, QPA has been advocating since January 2020 for use of a voluntary bypass route on the highway network, and is today asking the City of Québec and the Ministry of Transport to make the use of this route mandatory for all trucks.
Québec City, November 20, 2020 – The Québec Port Authority believes that the interim report on the Laurentia project tabled by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) on November 16 is incomplete, omits numerous important facts, and makes several assumptions that are not based on any verified and established facts.
“Unfortunately the IAAC interim report ignores important facts about fish and fish habitat and presents an inaccurate and misleading reading of air quality issues and data. In addition, the report does not take into consideration much of the information we submitted to provide a more complete picture of the project’s potential impact. It’s very unfortunate. We hope that the next steps in the current evaluation process will help correct this situation,” said Mario Girard, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Québec.
Fish and fish habitat
With the help of experts, QPA has acquired considerable knowledge of fish and fish habitat over the past seven years. Rigorous studies incorporating telemetric monitoring have provided information on the behaviour and habits of fish populations.
Based on these analyses, it is now known that lake and Atlantic sturgeon are found in the St. Charles River Estuary, and not in the Beauport Bay area.
QPA is also surprised that the Agency does not take into account the fact that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) ruled in 2019 that the striped bass reintroduced into the St. Lawrence in the early 2000s could not be considered the same species as the one that disappeared before. And that the status of the striped bass currently present in the St. Lawrence River, which was upgraded to “endangered” in 2012 from “extirpated” in 2004, therefore needed to be reviewed.
Experts from the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) now believe that there is at least one other breeding area for the “new species” of striped bass in the St. Lawrence River, in addition to the one in Beauport Bay, if not more. As a result, consideration is now being given to reauthorizing sport fishing for striped bass once its “endangered species” status has been reviewed, as requested by MFFP under the federal Species at Risk Act.
Moreover, in a letter addressed on October 26 to the federal Department of the Environment, the Quebec Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change and the Quebec Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks stated that the reintroduction of striped bass into the St. Lawrence River was a “resounding success.” The seeding program was therefore suspended in 2019 to avoid overloading the habitat and interfering with the natural reproduction of the species.
Furthermore, telemetric analyses conducted over 4 years determined that the striped bass spawning area was much larger than initially estimated, covering 280 hectares. Thus, the new terminal will have a limited impact on overall striped bass breeding.
Air quality: The Port calls on all involved to find solutions together
Since Laurentia is a container storage and handling project, its negative contribution to air quality will be very limited, as recognized in the IAAC interim report (page 53). The new terminal will be one of the most modern in the world and the greenest in North America, being powered almost entirely by electricity and hybrid technologies, for a significant reduction in greenhouse gases and other air emissions compared to fossil-fuel-powered terminals.
According to data compiled in 2019 by Public Health, during the winter period, wood heating alone is responsible for more than 60% of the fine particulate matter emissions observed in La Cité-Limoilou. Industry and transportation together are responsible for almost all remaining emissions.
Furthermore, according to recent studies by recognized experts, the average contribution of Port operations to dust fallout is less than 3% in areas surrounding its facilities.
“That said, although the Port’s activities have a marginal impact on air quality, we are committed to continuing to work with experts, including the Public Health Department and the City of Québec, on this important issue for neighbourhood residents, because the solution requires the support and cooperation of all the players in and around La Cité-Limoilou. We are sensitive to the concerns of the population, which is why we are formally asking all those involved to resume the work of the CICEL committee (Comité intersectoriel sur la contamination environnementale dans l’arrondissement La Cité-Limoilou) as soon as possible. We need to get back to work quickly,” said Girard.
Trucking: Limited impact that can be greatly mitigated
Once the Laurentia terminal is at full capacity in 2035, some 90% of the 700,000 containers transiting there will be transported by train. That is the core business model as envisaged by Laurentia and its partner, Canadian National. With the exception of the Prince Rupert terminal in western Canada, far fewer trucks will be used at Laurentia to transport containerized goods than at other North American terminals.
According to a traffic study conducted in 2018, truck traffic on Boulevard Henri-Bourassa will increase by only 7% once the Laurentia terminal is operating at full capacity. This is a rather limited impact. And that’s without counting mitigation measures to divert trucks to adjacent highway networks.
In early 2020, the Port of Québec launched a joint voluntary initiative to encourage truckers to make greater use of major thoroughfares. Specifically, trucks can travel to and from the Beauport Port sector via Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency and Autoroute Félix-Leclerc.
“The goal is to minimize traffic on Henri-Bourassa as much as possible. We’re prepared to go even further with authorities—namely the City of Québec and the Ministry of Transport—and make this bypass route mandatory,” said Girard. “There is a relatively simple and workable solution to the trucking issue. We are confident we can resolve it with the City and MTQ and considerably scale back the truck traffic people are worried about in neighbourhoods adjacent to the Port. We believe that this measure alone can greatly contribute to the social acceptability of the project for the residents of those neighbourhoods.”
With respect to trains, it is important to note that Laurentia will add the “equivalent” of just over two additional trains per day once the terminal is operating at full capacity.
Measures to mitigate impacts
Since 2015, the Port of Québec has introduced several changes to its initial plans in an effort to improve the project and respond to expectations and concerns expressed by the public and various groups. As a result, more than 24 hectares have been removed from the project, a decrease of more than 53% since it first began.
“Laurentia is a modern, well thought out project. It’s mindful of the environment and would be the envy of many port cities. It’s also a project with long-term structural benefits that make it much more than a mere container terminal:
It includes a logistics hub on the South Shore.
It’s a springboard for hundreds of companies in the region that export and import.
It’s also an accelerator that showcases our research institutions and innovative companies and opens doors to them through the world’s greatest ports.
The decision that is eventually made must take into account the best interests of our community, but also those of Quebec as a whole. We are also thinking about future generations and our collective prosperity,” added Girard.
QPA hopes that the next steps in the assessment process will serve to improve on IAAC’s interim report and better reflect all of the facts, while also providing for constructive dialogue with DFO to identify solutions to mitigate some of the project’s potential impacts.
With a joint investment of $775 million from Hutchison Ports, CN, and the Port of Québec, Laurentia will be the greenest deepwater container terminal in North America. It will provide the fastest and most cost-effective access to North American markets by opening a new maritime highway between Southeast Asia and the Port of Québec as of 2024.
The Laurentia project will create 7,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs (equal to 1,750 full-time jobs per year) in Canada during its 2021–2024 construction and more than 1,000 indirect, induced, and high-paid direct jobs in Canada once commissioned. It will also improve and secure the supply chain and create export opportunities for Quebec and Canada.