November 17, 1998
Honourable David Anderson, P.C.,M.P.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
200 Kent Street , Suite 1579
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A OE6
Ferry C.U.R.E., a registered B.C. society, is a community based coalition of users to re-establish equity in ferry rates and practices.
The purpose of this letter is fourfold:
Firstly, to file a formal complaint that during the October 1998 high speed testing of fast ferries British Columbia Ferry Corporation ( The Corporation) acted in a reckless manner by damaging beachfront, endangering pleasure craft and threatening fish habitat
Secondly, to request that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, pursuant to Section 37.(1) of the Fisheries Act and Section 39.1(1) of the Oceans Act, conduct an investigation of the environmental assessment performed by the Corporation relating to the B.C. fast ferries
Thirdly, to request that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans perform an assessment of the impact on small craft marine safety relating to the B.C. fast ferries
Fourthly, to advise that a formal request has been made to the Minister of Transport and the Corporation's directors, officers and employees to defer and/or modify implementation of the B.C.Fast Ferry service pending the outcome of the above proposed investigation and assessment
In 1997/98, the Corporation's fleet carried 22 million passengers and 8 million vehicles. Revenues generated that year were $384 million (which included an operating grant of $26.6 million received from the provincial and federal governments) and expenses incurred were $397 million. In addition, in 1997/98 there was a $1.3 million (1996/97 $8.6 million) investment in training and infrastructure for aluminum fabrication of fast ferries.
In its Annual Report, the Corporation presents its mission as "dedicated to satisfying customer, community and government needs for safe, efficient, effective and reliable ferry transportation services."
The Corporation's Ten Year Capital Plan was initiated in 1994. The Plan encompassed the Fast Ferry Program which includes the construction of three fast ferries for service between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay. Each vessel will be able to carry 250 cars and 1000 passengers, at a service speed of 37 knots. The construction of the first fast ferry has been carried out by Catamaran Ferries Inc., a subsidiary of B.C. Ferries. The first vessel was "in the water" in June 1998 with sea trials carried out in October 1998. The second ferry is scheduled to be in service for summer 1999 and the third for early 2000. The first fast ferry was scheduled to be in service by the end of 1996.
Notes 4 and 12 to the Corporation's 97/98 Annual Report indicate that the costs for the first ferry and for certain parts and materials for the remaining ferries, including training costs, is approximately $180 million. The costs incurred to date represent an alarming cost overrun in light of the original estimate of $60 million per vessel used in 1994 when the fast ferry program was announced in the provincial legislature.
Key Issues and Concerns
As noted above, the first fast ferry was involved in sea trials in October 1998. As indicated in the following report from the North Shore News on October 8, 1998, these sea trials resulted in substantial damage to the foreshore environment.
North Vancouver resident Steve Cox was enjoying a day at West Vancouver's Sandy Beach with his family last week when the Pacificat ventured by. Cox looked on with wonderment before all hell broke loose. "It was like instant tsunami," said Cox. "It washed logs, all our stuff - we just ran."
Also, an excerpt from a news report in the Vancouver Sun, page 1, on October 8, 1998 indicated the following:
Bruce Falkins, owner of Fisherman's Cove Marina, said wash from the 122.5 meter catamaran had a "devastating" effect on boats moored in the cove. "Everything was surging back and forth, pilings were cracking and snapping." Falkins said in an interview. " It doesn't make a wash like any other vessel I have ever seen out of here." ....He fears an environmental disaster. ... "They [B.C.Ferries] are planning 12 trips a day, there is no way this facility would survive."
Vancouver engineer Tony Tang, who is building a house on Passage Island, described how "a huge wave, carrying a tremendous force at a speed that I have never seen, crashed on to the island's shore. The largest wave crashed straight up six feet against the cliff and reached as far as 20 feet into the property at the beach area. ... Some of the construction materials sitting two feet above the high tide locations inside my property were washed away. "
Notwithstanding the assurances from Tom Ward, CEO of the Corporation, regarding the safety of the fast ferries, Ferry C.U.R.E. would raise a number of concerns and suggest the following actions:
Firstly, to file a formal complaint that during the October 1998 high speed testing of fast ferries the Corporation has acted in a reckless manner by damaging beachfront, endangering pleasure craft and threatening fish habitat. Based on the above press reports, discussions with independent naval engineers and scientists, as well as others in the community, it appears that operating the fast ferry on the Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo run has and/or will result in a risk to pleasure craft safety. As well, the fast ferry operation has and/or will result in the disruption or destruction of fish habitat by negatively impacting estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems in the waters in the Strait of Georgia. Also, there is now significant risk of erosion to beach front properties and damage to docks, wharves, marine craft and other private property.
Secondly, to request that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans pursuant to Section 37.(1) of the Fisheries Act and Section 39.1(1) of the Oceans Act, conduct an investigation of the environmental assessment performed by the corporation relating to the B.C. fast ferries. It is our understanding that the Corporation performed an environmental review of the impact of waves from fast ferries. e.g. impact on beachfront property, estuaries, plankton, sea floor, migratory birds, tidal pools, etc. The purpose of your investigation of the Corporation's environmental review would be to determine its adequacy and to address growing public concern over the operation of the B.C. fast ferries.
Thirdly, to request that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans perform an assessment of the impact on small craft marine safety including the increased risk of loss of life relating to the B.C. fast ferries.
The proposed investigation and assessment would take into account your mandate as summarized in the document entitled "The ROLE of the Federal Government in the Oceans Sector." This document indicates that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for:
The Oceans Act, which came into force on January 31, 1997, addresses Canada's economic, social and environmental ocean objectives. As outlined in Section 30 of the Oceans Act, the strategy to achieve these objectives is based on the principles of sustainable development, the integrated management of ocean activities and the precautionary approach. The principle of the precautionary approach (i.e.erring on the side of caution) is pivotal to your investigation of the Corporation's environmental review of the BC fast ferries.
All over the world, waves from high speed fast ferries are becoming an environmental problem of growing concern.(Danish Marine Institute, August 1998) As provocatively detailed in the October 5, 1998 cover story in Maclean's, entitled "Our Dying Seas", we are breaking our bonds with the sea. It would be a profound tragedy if during this, the UN Year of the Ocean, that "we forget that our great waters are a defining symbol of our country". (Macleans, October 5, 1998, p 59, Dr. Joseph MacInnis)
The failure to adequately investigate these issues could offset the promising future benefits of your recent decision in September 1998 to establish a marine protected area near Gabriola Passage, to the south of where the fast ferry is to be operated. Ferry C.U.R.E. anticipates that with the fast ferry program two years behind schedule and a $100 million cost overrun there will be intense political pressure from the provincial government and other vested interests to disregard these environmental and safety issues. e.g. the recent provincial fast tracking of the BC Transit $1.2 billion extension which circumvented existing provincial environmental laws. Ferry C.U.R.E. believes the proposed investigation and assessment are supported by the November 1998 public service announcement by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in recognition of the UN Year of the Ocean called "Something This Important" which states:
"Wouldn't you say something this important deserves our attention?"
Fourthly, to advise that a formal request has been made to the Minister of Transport and the Corporation directors, officers and employees to defer and/or modify implementation of the B.C. Fast Ferry service pending the outcome of the above proposed investigation and assessment.
As you are aware, Section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act states that :
No person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.
The consequences to all involved should damage occur to the fisheries habitat are outlined under Section 40.(1) and Section 78.2 of the Fisheries Act where it states:
40.(1) Every person who contravenes subsection 35.(1) is guilty of:
(a) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable, for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding three hundred thousand dollars and, for any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding three hundred thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both; or
(b) an indictable offence and liable, for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding one million dollars and, for any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding one million dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both.
78.2 Where a corporation commits an offence under this Act, any officer, director or agent of the corporation who directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in or participated in the commission of the offence is a party to and guilty of the offence and is liable on conviction to the punishment provided for the offence, whether or not the corporation has been prosecuted.
For your information Ferry C.U.R.E. has requested that the Honorable David Collenette, Minister of Transport, defer the issuance of the fast ferry license to the Corporation. This license is issued in accordance with the 1995 decision of the Board of Steamship Inspection re the "High Speed Code"(International Standard). Such licensing should be issued only after clarification of the above issues. As well, concerns under the Navigational Water Protection Act relating to private property need to be addressed. Ferry C.U.R.E. is in consultation with environmental groups, waterfront property owners, marine owners, boat owner associations and residents living in the Strait of Georgia area affected by the BC fast ferries. We are in discussion with legal counsel and are evaluating what legal recourse is available to us. Potential defendants include the Corporation, its directors, officers and employees as well as the provincial government relating to existing or future damage to private property, fisheries and the oceans.
In summary, Ferry C.U.R.E looks forward to your consideration of our request for a federal investigation into the environmental review performed by the Corporation and a federal assessment of marine safety of the B.C. fast ferry operation. The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans has a "duty of care" to act diligently in fulfilling its mandate relating to Fisheries and Ocean. Thank you for your co-operation in responding to this matter. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions relating to the matters raised.
Elbert K. Paul, C.A.
Director, Ferry C.U.R.E.