In a lifetime of fishing on the Salish Sea, Jay Julius of the Lummi Nation in Washington State says he’s seen environmental degradation in the area first-hand.
“We are at the tipping point and I think Mother Nature is speaking very loudly — the salmon, the conditions of the salmon, the conditions of the orca,” said Julius, one of the nation’s leaders.
Lummi, a Coast Salish nation near Bellingham, is one of four Indigenous communities from the state just south of B.C.’s Lower Mainland sending members to present their case at a federal review panel hearing on the proposed Roberts Bank terminal expansion on Saturday.
The Swinomish, Suquamish and Tulalip Tribes will also be represented.
The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) expansion project would more than double the capacity of the current terminal which sits just north of the U.S. border in Delta.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority project would create 108 hectares of new land and add enough capacity to handle 2.4 million 20-foot shipping containers per year.
For Julius, the expansion sounds like a bad idea.
“We know that this is not going in the right direction,” he said, adding that his livelihood — and that of his nation — depends on fishing.
“Is this going to improve the environment? Is it going to improve the condition of the Salish Sea as a whole? Is it going to improve the starvation the orcas are facing and the destruction that we’re doing today to the Salish Sea?” Julius said.
He said he hopes Canadian authorities take the views of First Nations seriously — even if they’re based in the United States — before making a decision on RBT2. Julius noted that his nation has ties to communities, lands and waters in Canada that go back generations — long before the international boundary was created.
Duncan Wilson with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority says it will work with Indigenous communities to address concerns.
He says expansion project has been designed to minimize environmental impacts and that there are also other environmental initiatives in place such as having vessels are slow down where whales are currently active.
Public hearings on the project began May 14 and will continue through to June 24.