Barge berth option near park leads to petition as Metro Vancouver looks to build new Iona Island WWTP

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barge berth
The proposed barge berth area near Deering Island Park is one of three locations currently under consideration by Metro Vancouver. Graphic: Metro Vancouver

Southland residents near Metro Vancouver’s Deering Island Park are raising concerns about the impacts of a barge berth site option proposed for transporting materials and workers over the 15 years it could take to build the new Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A petition from nearly 800 local residents opposed to locating the barge berth near Deering Island Park, an area home to migratory birds and other wildlife, appeared before Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Committee last week on behalf of Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Kevin Falcon.

“This proposal involves the establishment of an industrial barge terminal and staging area in close proximity to a public park, trails, and residential areas,” Falcon wrote to the region’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). “In light of the significant concerns raised by our constituents, we are formally requesting detailed information regarding any alternative options currently under consideration.”

Metro Vancouver CAO Jerry Dobrovolny responded in writing to Falcon, noting that a significant amount of sand and construction aggregate would be required for construction to “build a strong foundation to protect the facility against earthquakes and future rising sea levels.” The build site also requires extensive ground improvements because it is in the Fraser River Delta.

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The proposed area near Deering Island Park is one of three locations currently under consideration by Metro Vancouver.

A barge berth in the same area was used for the construction in 1963 of the existing Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is reaching the end of its service life. The facility processes about 200 billion litres of wastewater each year, more than triple its original capacity. The upgrades will roughly double the treatment efficiency of the plant, removing about 35,000 tonnes of contaminants per year from the effluent discharged to the Salish Sea.

The new WWTP is expected to cost more than $10 billion. 

The Iona WWTP project site is currently only accessible via one two-lane road that is also used by major industries in the area. In Metro Vancouver project documents, local officials say they need to consider alternate transportation methods to bring materials to the site to improve transportation efficiency and safety for road users on Sea Island and throughout the region. 

Local officials say that using a barge one to two times per day to bring in materials could reduce hundreds of dump truck loads through the community on a daily basis. Its design will consist of a dock and in-river piles to securely anchor the barges and a conveyor system to move materials between the barge and the shore. The barges would not be powered, but pulled by a tug boat.

Iona
Local officials are also in conversations with 14 local First Nations communities, such as Musqueam, due to the ecological restoration works attached to the project. Graphic: Metro Vancouver

Project officials have been evaluating three locations in the area. One is two kilometres west of the project site at the mouth of the North Arm of the Fraser River; the second is 300 metres east of the project site, across from Deering Island; and the last is a location on the south side of Iona Island in McDonald Slough. 

Studies are being completed to assess environmental impacts, functionality, cost, and impacts to stakeholders and the community in each location. Local officials are also in conversations with 14 local First Nations communities, such as Musqueam, due to the ecological restoration works attached to the project.

Construction of the berth is anticipated to start in the fall of 2025. Local officials hope to have a location selected by early 2024.

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