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The public is invited to share their thoughts on the replacement of the Massey Tunnel

The Massey Tunnel Replacement, also known as the Fraser River Tunnel Project, is subject to environmental review and requires an environmental assessment certificate before proceeding.

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The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office has opened a public comment period for the first phase of the $4 billion assessment of the Massey Tunnel replacement, which is likely to become an election issue again before the end of the year. ‘review.

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BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon has already publicly stated his support for dropping the NDP government’s tunnel proposal in favor of renewing the 10-lane bridge approved by the previous Liberal government. of British Columbia, and Delta South MLA Ian Paton said he would “absolutely” run for re-election for the position.

“I’ve heard (Falcon) say that, I totally agree with him, but I don’t know if it’s written in stone,” Paton said Monday.

The next provincial election is scheduled for October 2024, before the environmental review of a replacement tunnel is complete, and Falcon said in a February interview with Mike Smyth on CKNW that he would renew the bridge proposal.

Falcon, campaigning in the Vancouver Quilchena riding by-election, was unavailable for comment on Monday, but Paton said it made sense to fall back on years of technical study, consultation and work preliminary construction work that has already been done.

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“We’ve spent over $100 million preloading the sides of the freeways, testing piles for the bridge, moving (power) lines ‘for a toll structure that was to be completed this year,'” Paton said.

The Horgan government’s replacement toll-free passage schedule, currently running as the Highway 99 Tunnel Program, is scheduled for 2030, leaving its constituents stuck in the existing bottleneck at the hours of peak for nearly another decade.

“I say people are totally in favor of a bridge, especially people in my riding of Delta, so that’s who I’m trying to deal with,” Paton said.

Other regional municipalities, including Richmond, opposed the bridge, but Paton said there was still uncertainty over whether a new tunnel, which would have to be dug across the Fraser River at a critical point of the Fraser River estuary for migrating salmon, will review.

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Paton added that during the initial approval of the bridge, First Nations, including Tsawwassen First Nation, objected to the idea of ​​”a huge concrete tube being dropped across the river “.

Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird was unavailable for comment on Monday, but the province has launched a consultation process for the tunnel proposal which it says would meet government principles under the legislation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Beginning April 25 and running through June 9, the Assessment Office is seeking feedback on the engagement process for an environmental review that will continue through 2024.

However, conservation groups favoring a tunnel over the canceled bridge are “crossing their fingers that nothing is going to change now”, according to Otto Langer, a retired fisheries biologist and former president of the abandoned community group Fraser Voices.

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“You’re worn down by these issues,” Langer said. “Would someone make a decision and continue with this.”

Langer co-wrote a briefing paper for Fraser Voices which acknowledged that dredging and digging a new tunnel would have a greater initial environmental impact on the river estuary, but favored the option over a bridge that would have a longer hangover.

“The big issue is really the timing, make sure you avoid the major salmon migration downstream and the salmon migration upstream,” Langer said.

Considering that authorities already face environmental concerns related to dredging “millions of cubic meters of sand” out of the river each year to keep shipping lanes clear, Langer is “not so concerned that a another trench crosses the Fraser River”.

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Overall, Langer said conservation groups are more concerned about the extent to which any new crossings will spur growth and “pave the delta south of Richmond.”

Langer said the volunteers involved with Fraser Voices who fought against the bridge are now banding together to help with the environmental review of the tunnel.

The public can provide feedback at one of two in-person open houses or at one of two virtual information sessions. In-person Open Houses are held:

• Tuesday, May 10 at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn (1665-56 St., Delta) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
• Wednesday, May 11 at the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel (5911 Minoru Blvd., Richmond) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The virtual information sessions take place on:

• Tuesday May 17, from noon to 1:30 p.m.
• Thursday 19 May, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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To participate in the virtual sessions, register at gov.bc.ca/EAOPublicComments. Staff will be available during the in-person and virtual sessions to share information and answer questions. Those unable to attend in person or virtually can submit their comments online at gov.bc.ca/EAOPublicComments.

depenner@postmedia.com

twitter.com/derrickpenner


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