The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2009 Jan 6

Bayside Port official weighs in against LNG


BAYSIDE – The Bayside Port Corporation has added its voice to those who are opposed to the proposed Calais LNG project citing both the economic impact this could have on the port as well as safety concerns.

In a letter filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the corporation’s Chief Operating Officer Darrell Weare notes that the port has operated at Bayside for over 20 years and is owned by the users and the local communities.

He said the users at the port employ about 100 people and there is total employment, including ancillary business, of almost 200 at certain times of the year.

The port is accessed through Passamaquoddy Bay by approximately 100 ships annually, said Weare, and Bayside is a major transportation hub in southwestern New Brunswick for food products, paper, lumber, fertilizer and aggregates.

While the port corporation and its users are pro-business and want to see businesses do well on both sides of the border, he said their concerns are twofold.

First, they are concerned about the economic impact the project could potentially have on the port and its users by restricting or increasing the cost of access.

Secondly, they have safety concerns in regard to the significant increase in shipping traffic in the restricted confines of Passamaquoddy Bay.

In addition, said Weare, the proposed project is in close proximity to their facility and safety issues could arise as their ships would be close to the LNG tankers.

“Some of our ships must depart on the high tide and timing is very sensitive. Scheduling of ships would become a serious safety issue with significant economic impact.”

Weare said that in order to better understand the economic and safety impacts of the project, they have met with the proponents and carefully watched their website, the FERC website, and read all submissions. He said they were impressed by the professionalism and openness to share information on Calais LNG.

The Calais LNG project would have exclusion zones for shipping access to the site, said Weare, and exclusion zones for unloading would further restrict traffic in the area.

“This alone would have a significant economic impact at the port of Bayside. The physical location of the project is such that it definitely will have an impact on our port. All the factors affecting the port of Bayside would be of a negative nature.”

However, Weare added in the letter that their concerns are based on the information they have to date and they are open to receive more information from Calais LNG and other parties to address both their economic and safety concerns.

Mac Greene, head of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team and owner of Island Cruises Whale Watching, has also voiced his opposition to the project noting that increased shipping traffic by LNG tankers will increase the ship strikes on North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy as this is the prime feeding habitat of 50 per cent of this endangered population, which number only 350.

While the shipping lanes have been moved, he said the whales move also. Greene said Head Harbour Light is one of the few places on Earth where people can sit on the bank and watch whales at play while Grand Manan is also known for a large population of whales around its shores and is home to a unique family of minke whales.

“There is no way a ship can get up through Head Harbour Passage without passing both of these places nor without disturbing whale watching. Not only right whales are affected but finbacks, humpback, minke whales, and harbour porpoise,” Greene said.

“Whale watching boats are located in Head Harbour Passage, Bay of Fundy, and Passamaquoddy Bay.”

Greene pointed out that this area is the home of the only whale rescue team on the eastern coast of Canada and said increased traffic is going to cause more dead whales. He noted that 15 right whale calves were born in 2006 and two have already been killed by ship strikes.

“It is my opinion that LNG tankers escorted by four large tugs on a frequent basis would drive whales away from Head Harbour Passage for good.

“The Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world with some of the strongest currents in the world. Head Harbour Passage is a narrow channel known for frequent winter storms, thick summer fog when visibility is absolute zero. Whales will be even more at risk if LNG tankers are allowed in Head Harbour Passage.”

In his letter to FERC, Art MacKay, chair of the Ganong Nature and Marine Park, stressed the importance of the Quoddy region and the St. Croix Estuary to many endangered and threatened species that are protected by the national laws of Canada and the U.S. as well as the State of Maine and province of New Brunswick.

He, too, pointed to particular concerns about the whales and porpoises, which can be impacted by ship strikes, sound and respiratory problems from surface petroleum and other spills.

Of particular concern, said MacKay, are harbour porpoise that live in the St. Croix Estuary and beyond.

This species is governed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 in the U.S. and in Atlantic Canada is listed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

“As well, Northwest Atlantic harbour porpoises are currently designated as a strategic stock under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act because bycatch levels remain high for this population. Harbour porpoises are listed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable throughout their range.”

The Ganong park is a 140-hectare protected area, half of which is land and half of which is intertidal zone. The park is home to a diverse collection of organisms including a small group of endangered (Canada) butternut. MacKay said it is likely this species occurs at the proposed LNG site.

He notes endangered species that may be particularly susceptible to industrial development in Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix Estuary are: Atlantic salmon (Maine), butternut (Canada), Eskimo curlew (bird), Jacob’s ladder (vascular plant), the North Atlantic right whale, Peregrine falcon and porbeagle (fish). MacKay also goes on to list a number of threatened species that are in the area as well as those of special concern.


© 2009 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB