Cabinet ministers Mary Polak and Peter Fassbender issue environmental certificate for 10-lane bridge

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      The B.C. government has announced that there will be "no significant adverse effects" from a huge new toll bridge planned between Richmond and Delta.

      The statement was included in a news release announcing an envrionmental assessment certificate has been awarded for a 10-lane bridge across the south arm of the Fraser River.

      The certificate was granted by Environment Minister Mary Polak and Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender.

      The bridge is expected to cost around $3.5 billion and will be developed through a public-private partnership.

      The project includes replacing the Westminster Highway, Steveston Highway, and Highway 17A interchanges, according to the news release.

      After the bridge opens for traffic, the provincial government plans to decommission the four-lane George Massey Tunnel.

      The tunnel-replacement project has raised the ire of mayors from the across the region, with the noted exception of Delta's Lois Jackson.

      “A 10-lane bridge just induces traffic," City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussato told the Georgia Straight last year. "It encourages more people to drive."

      About 80,000 vehicles travel through the George Massey Tunnel on weekdays.

      Delta naturalist and historian Anne Murray wrote a column last year condemning the impact of the proposed bridge on farmland within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

      "Building a 10-lane highway across the Fraser will only increase the pressure to develop remaining Delta farmland, in the same way that Richmond was developed in the 1970s," she stated. "Additionally, the continual pressure from the port for more industrial land is in direct confrontation with the maintenance of active farmland."

      The official in charge of the project, Geoff Freer, however, has claimed that building a 10-lane bridge would lead to a "net increase in agricultural land".

      The two cabinet ministers' certificate includes 33 conditions, including developing a fish-habitat offsetting plan to restore Green Slough and Deas Slough.

      The proponents must also ensure that aboriginal and commercial fishers have access to fisheries while the bridge is under construction.

      According to the B.C. government, "tunnel decommissioning would not result in changes to the size of the vessels using the Fraser River".

      In 2013, Georgia Straight contributor Daniel Wood wrote a feature article noting how a new bridge could create more room for massive post-Panamax ships to travel up the Fraser River to reach expanded port facilities on Tilbury Island.

      "That’s because the keels of the newest container ships have a draft of 39.5 feet," Wood reported. "And the top of the tunnel at high tide lies 40.5 feet below the surface. There is no room for error. Otherwise, hundreds of commuters could drown."

      Wood also suggested that once the bridge is built, "Delta’s remaining ALR farmland will face an assault by speculators and developers who have been waiting for the chance to open up the cheap agricultural properties south of Richmond."