BC Ferries obtained a court injunction Wednesday to remove protesters who had been blocking construction equipment used in the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal expansion.
A group of approximately 15 Horseshoe Bay residents had been surrounding the contractors excavation machinery since April 9, preventing work from going ahead. The action followed the B.C. Supreme Courts rejection last week of a West Vancouver parents groups application for an injunction to halt the $30 million upgrade, pending further health and environmental impact studies. The Gleneagles Concerned Parents Committee (GCPC) contend that pollutants become trapped in a "basin" within the bay during certain weather conditions. It said rock blasting to facilitate the planned 1,200 vehicle holding zone and underground park would reduce air quality at the nearby Gleneagle elementary school. Work was scheduled to begin on Monday, April 9.
Neither the GCPC nor another high profile lobby group the Citizens Against Ferry Terminal Expansion were officially involved in the protest action. However, GCPC spokesperson Nan Legate says members fully supported the move.
"It took five months to put together and get a response on our injunction request and as working parents we are just exhausted," she says. "The current protest appears to be a spontaneous gathering so its great that other locals are picking up on the issue."
One of the on-site protesters was former West Vancouver councillor, Liz Byrd. She says seniors and parents make up the bulk of the picketers, many of whom are prepared to be arrested to get their message across.
Deborah Dykes, communications co-ordinator for BC Ferries, says it is disappointing that some Horseshoe Bay residents are disregarding the ruling. She says the contractor, J.J.M Construction, was still able to stockpile dirt near the Westport Road portion of the site during the blockade, but the overall delay is costing the authority $8,000 a day.
Dykes said the construction plans would double the size of the holding area and stop traffic backing up onto the highway during peak periods.
"On a bad day traffic jams are up to eight kilometres long, making it very difficult for people travelling to Squamish and Whistler to reach the two exits."
BC Ferries first proposed the upgrade more than five years ago, after a contractor employee was killed directing traffic. The authority subsequently announced formal plans to end dangerous vehicle lineups on the TransCanada Highway and reduce traffic snarls near passenger pick-up and drop-off areas.
However some critics say the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal expansion will not provide a long term solution to congestion problems and is a waste of tax payers money. West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling says BC Ferries is "flying blind with this expansion" in the absense of a master plan for transport in the Sea to Sky Corridor. He says a range of options need to be studied, such as a new bridge or third terminal, rather than rushing to invest millions of dollars in Horseshoe Bay.
However BC Ferries says a master plan cannot come soon enough. Dykes says; "A third terminal in the Lower Mainland is at least 15 years out and a solution is needed now to cope with rising traffic levels and demand for the mainland-island service."
Nebbeling also claims that BC Ferries has ignored the concerns of residents and West Vancouver Council by being "arrogant and using bullying tactics that dont belong in this day and age." Last summer Nebbeling, a member of the Opposition Liberal party, introduced a private members bill to make the provincial government and Crown corporations subject to municipal bylaws regarding land use, development and improvements. He says the bill has not made it to second reading because the NDP government controls the agenda. But he says, "If the Liberal government takes power in the upcoming provincial election, the bill will be reintroduced within the first 90 days and the Horseshoe Bay expansion will be stopped in its tracks."
Nebbeling says under the current regulations, for example, BC Ferries has not had to get a blasting permit from the City of West Vancouver, when in fairness, the same laws should apply to every business.
Dykes says plans have already been altered substantially over the past five years following consultation with residents in the area. Independent consultants were also hired to undertake a range of environmental impact studies, including air quality, wildlife habitat and drainage, she added. During the hearing, lawyers acting for BC Ferries told the court that toll booths would be moved 250 metres further away from the school as a direct response to parents concerns.