Cost of dredging Rocky Point triples due to persistent pollutants

The dredging hasn’t started but Port Moody is already in a hole.

In a bid to keep the docks off the mudflats during low tide, the city previously set a budget of $250,000 to dredge sediment at Rocky Point this year.

However, council voted unanimously Tuesday night to boost that budget to $750,000 after pollutants were detected in the sediment.

The city’s previous budget presumed the dredged mud could be tossed into the ocean. However, before a permit for ocean disposal could be granted, Environment and Climate Change Canada required the dredged mud be tested for “persistent organic pollutants” – toxic chemicals that harm human health as well as the environment.

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POP goes the budget

Persistent Organic Pollutants tend to persist in the environment, sometimes harming a food chain as they pass from animal to animal, according to a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States.

Some of the pollutants found at Rocky Point, such as dioxins and furans, were often an accidental byproduct of incinerating waste or industrial uses employed at pulp and paper mills. Some chemicals found in the soil were generally used in flame retardants.

Because sediment samples collected from Rocky Point exceeded national standards, the mud needs to be trucked to a landfill rather than dropped in the ocean.

Stuck with the mud

While she acknowledged the “sticker shock,” Coun. Meghan Lahti suggested the city doesn’t have many alternatives.

photo supplied Port Moody

“As one of the only boat launches in the Lower Mainland, we really don’t have much of a choice . . . unless we want to shut that boat launch down,” she said. “I think we would probably get a lot of pushback.”

Paying the cost

Typically, Rocky Point dredging has been funded by user fees paid by boaters. However, as that fund has been “fully depleted,” city staff suggested paying for the project by dipping into the Community Amenity Contribution Reserve.

The reserve is generally meant to fund parks, public art, rec centres or pedestrian improvements through fees levied on developers in exchange for extra height or density on building projects.

Going forward, Lahti suggested increasing the parking and launch fees paid by boaters to foot the bill for the dredging.

While a rate hike is a possibility, it’s won’t be explored in detail until the 2023 financial plan, according to city staff.

In 2021, Port Moody collected approximately $109,000 from boaters, about 50 percent more than anticipated, according to city staff.

Coun. Steve Milani voiced a similar concern, stating he was “not a big fan” of using the Community Amenity Contribution Reserve to pay for the project.

“I guess this time we’re kind of stuck with it,” Milani acknowledged.

Ideally, the city would get some financial support from Metro Vancouver, suggested Coun. Hunter Madsen.

“The dock is our dock but of course it’s in this transitional zone where, frankly, the inlet’s not our inlet,” Madsen said.

The dredge report

Generally, Rocky Point needs to be dredged every five years, according to a city staff report. The last dredging was carried out in 2016.

By undertaking the 2022 dredging, there’s an opportunity: “maximize the period before dredging is needed again.”

The staff report stated that the next dredging may not be required for seven to 10 years. However, at Tuesday’s meeting staff cautioned that severe storms sometimes send sediment into the channel, requiring more frequent dredging.

The vote

Council voted 6-0 to move forward with the project. Mayor Rob Vagramov did not attend the meeting.

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