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Draft report sees Port of Montreal Contrecoeur project as potentially triggering only moderate environmental effects 

By Leo Ryan, Editor

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, in its long-awaited draft report, has concluded that the Port of Montreal’s Contrecoeur container terminal project “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, taking into account the implementation of key mitigation measures.”

The Agency also concludes in its report released on November 18 that the project, in combination with past, present and reasonably foreseeable future projects, is not likely to cause cumulative environmental effects on wetlands, copper redhorse and Western Chorus Frog.

The Agency indicated it was “not in a position to accurately determine the significance of cumulative effects on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Indigenous peoples.”

Comments to be received from First Nations during the consultation period on the draft environmental assessment report and potential conditions will be considered and will assist the Agency in finalizing its conclusions. Public comments from interested parties will be accepted until December 18, 2020. The final report will be subsequently submitted to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who will make a decision on whether the project could cause significant environmental effects.

The key mitigation measures mentioned in the report would consist of implementing compensation plans for wetlands, fish (creation of fish habitat and grass beds for the copper redhorse), birds (construction of bank swallow nesting boxes) and special-status species (bat condos). “Other measures, such as bypass fencing for the western chorus frog, measures to minimize the release of suspended solids into the aquatic environment and measures to minimize air contaminants could help mitigate the effects of the project on valued components.”

The Agency has also identified follow-up requirements to verify the prediction of effects on the valued components and the effectiveness of the proposed mitigation measures. The results of these follow-ups would be submitted to the Agency for review in collaboration with the federal authorities, would be shared with First Nations representatives and would allow the proponent to make corrections, if necessary.

According to the Agency, significant adverse transboundary environmental effects also can occur when project emissions can account for a high level of contribution to provincial or national greenhouse gas emissions. But given the project’s low contribution to provincial and national greenhouse gas emissions and the implementation of mitigation and follow-up measures, the Agency opined that “the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.”

For its part, the Port of Montreal declared that the release of the draft report represented a “new milestone” for the Contrecoeur project costing between $750 million and $900 million.

The Montreal Port Authority said it was proceeding “with the analysis of the report and reiterates its commitment to implement exemplary mitigation and compensation measures. It will also remain attentive to Agency requests from start to finish of the project’s design, construction and operation in order to foster harmonious integration into the community.”

 The terminal project will support the growth of the container market over the next few decades and consolidate the competitiveness of Eastern Canada’s logistics and industrial ecosystem, the MPA said. This project was developed in conjunction with a host of local, regional and national partners, starting in 2014. Hundreds of citizens, numerous provincial and federal stakeholders, scientific experts and First Nations representatives took part in both the MPA’s pre-consultation process and the Agency’s independent process.

With the support of Canada Infrastructure Bank and private partners, the Port of Montreal intends to develop a new state-of-the-art container terminal to handle 1.15 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) when completed. It would boost the port’s capacity from 2.1 million TEUs to 3.5 million TEUs. 

 Located in an industrial zone, the Contrecœur land reserve 40 kms downstream on the St. Lawrence River was acquired over 30 years ago by the Montreal Port Authority and has been the focus of careful collaborative planning to support the development of the supply chain in Quebec and Eastern Canada. (Artist rendering of planned terminal)