Ottawa authorizes Montreal Port Authority's new terminal in Contrecœur

·2 min read
The future Contrecoeur container terminal will be able to accommodate two cargo ships at the same time. It will be built one kilometre upstream from the bulk terminal, near Verchères. (Submitted by Montreal Port Authority - image credit)
The future Contrecoeur container terminal will be able to accommodate two cargo ships at the same time. It will be built one kilometre upstream from the bulk terminal, near Verchères. (Submitted by Montreal Port Authority - image credit)

The Montreal Port Authority has the green light to build a new container port terminal in Contrecœur, about 50 kilometres east of downtown Montreal.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson approved the project on Monday.

"Through project assessments based on science and consultations with Indigenous peoples and the public, we are able to protect our water and air, while supporting our communities," Wilkinson says in a statement.

The assessment concluded that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when mitigation measures are taken into account, the statement says.

The Montreal Port Authority estimates that the project will generate about 5,000 jobs during the construction phase and more than 1,000 direct jobs during the operation phase, the statement says.

The container port terminal will have a maximum annual capacity of 1.15 million containers. The project will also include a features such as a seven-track classification yard, a container storage and handling area and rail and road accesses.

The Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent (SODES) says the project will consolidate maritime expertise while making the St. Lawrence Seaway more competitive.

Wilkinson's approval was the last step of many in getting the project authorized, and now the port authority is ready to make a call for tenders with an aim to get the facility operational by 2024.

In a statement, Martin Imbleau, president and CEO of the port authority, said the project will be a "key public utility for the development of Quebec and Canada."

Wilkinson's decision was also the last hope of environmentalists who, in recent decades, have raised a number of concerns about the consequences of the project on the fauna and flora nearby. The area includes the copper redhorse, an endangered fish, and the western chorus frog, whose population is declining.

However, there are 330 legally binding conditions that the developer must respect throughout the life of the project, Wilkinson's statement says, and those conditions will help protect human health, fish, migratory birds, wetlands and the use of the land by First Nations people.

On Monday, the non-profit environmental group SNAP Québec blasted the minister's "unacceptable" decision.

"We will use all legal means needed to make sure the Species at Risk Act is respected," the group stated on social media.

The Montreal Port Authority already has 19 terminals, including one in Contrecœur. Since the 1950s, solid bulk has been unloaded there, to supply, among other things, the steel industry. The additional container terminal will be able to accommodate two freighters at a time. It will be built one kilometre upstream from the bulk terminal, near Verchères.