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photo by: Chris Teren

Vessel traffic in the Salish Sea

The Salish Sea is one of the world’s largest and most biologically rich inland seas. According to the Canada – U.S. Cooperation in the Salish Sea: 2021-2024 Action Plan, the Salish Sea is home to more than 8.7 million people, and the population is expected to increase to over 10.5 million people by 2040.

In 2020, there were 10,480 large, commercial ocean-going vessel transits in the Salish Sea. These vessel transits do not include local barge traffic, anchoring, queuing, and/or bunkering (ship fueling) transits; or the many ferry boat transits and the pleasure, fishing, and small commercial boats that share these transboundary waters. This existing commercial vessel traffic causes noise impacts and oil spill risk, threatening the shores of our communities and the fragile marine waters that are home to 125 threatened and endangered species, including the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

The November 2021 Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections Report identifies 22 recently constructed and proposed or permitted port and refinery projects that would add at least 2,634 annual vessel transits to and from ports in British Columbia and Washington State. Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project and the Port of Vancouver’s proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 account for 46% of the quantified projected increase in vessel traffic.

If all of the proposed new and expanding terminal and refinery projects are permitted and developed, this would result in at least a 25 percent increase in large, ocean-going commercial vessel traffic. Click here to read more about these projections.

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It wasn’t until 1979 that San Juan County got a comprehensive growth plan and that was largely due to the Friends of the San Juan’s being there to advocate for the shoreline and the ecosystem. Since then, there have been constant waves of pressure by developers. Friends have risen each time, fighting to protect this fragile and precious place.

Liza Michaelson

member, San Juan Island