The Lower Fraser River, which stretches from the mouth of the Fraser River to the Vedder Canal in Chilliwack, is one of British Columbia’s most valuable resources.
Not only is it home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including white sturgeon and five species of Pacific salmon, but it is a working river that has been providing jobs, building communities and making substantial contributions to the local, provincial and federal economies for almost 200 years.
Today, as it has since the first fur-trading post was established on its shores at Fort Langley in 1827, the Lower Fraser River packs an enormous economic punch. It supports thousands of jobs and contributes billions of dollars to the local, provincial and federal economies.
In 2014 alone, trade activity on the Lower Fraser River contributed an impressive $4.3 billion in GDP, $9.3 billion in economic output and $2.8 billion in wages. It also supported more than 42,000 jobs nationwide—and not just any jobs. In 2012, the average annual compensation for positions related to the Lower Fraser River port activity was $67,000, 52 percent higher than the average Canadian wage of $44,000.
While the Lower Fraser River port is part of Port Metro Vancouver—Canada’s largest and busiest port—on its own it would still be the third-largest port in the country by all measures: export, import and domestic tonnage.
For Surrey, access to the Lower Fraser River has proven to be a competitive advantage. The City is home to 22 km of riverside waterfront, with approximately 16 km dedicated for industrial or other non-park purposes. Some of Surrey’s main industries and employers—including sawmills and rail and marine terminals—rely heavily on access to the Lower Fraser River, as do the numerous local small-to-medium-size businesses that benefit from economic spinoff activity generated by these industries.
With these figures and contributions, there can be no doubt that a working Lower Fraser River plays a crucial role in the development, growth and prosperity of our cities, province and country.
Enter the Fraser River Industrial Association. This alliance of marine-dependent businesses operating in and around the Lower Fraser River formed in 2015 to raise the profile of the importance of the working River and to draw attention to opportunities for sustainable growth and expansion of its economic activities.
FRIA was established in response to the local Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trades 2014 white paper, “Economic Importance of the Lower Fraser River.” The report called for a long-term, collaborative strategy for the River—not a simple task when you consider that the Lower Fraser River is under the stewardship of numerous bodies, including 15 municipal governments, more than 20 provincial and federal ministries, 29 First Nations and myriad private and public stakeholders such as railways, environmental groups, port authorities, utilities and transport authorities and more.
FRIA believes that all these levels of government, including First Nations and regulators, as well as other key stakeholders, such as environmental, community and fishery groups, have a collective responsibility to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the Lower Fraser River. FRIA aims to be the unified voice for economic industry in this ongoing dialogue.
FRIA is a non-partisan group with an overarching goal to promote and sustain a robust business environment for the Lower Fraser River so that the River can continue to make important contributions to the neighbouring communities and their economies.
In so doing, FRIA and its members are extremely aware of the ecological significance of the Lower Fraser River and are committed to doing business in a responsible manner that recognizes concerns, considers impacts and appreciates the social and environmental obligations of industry.
As a keen advocate for a sustainable working River, FRIA monitors and focuses on topics and issues that have an impact on the Lower Fraser River’s economic wellbeing. This includes stakeholder engagement, the preservation of industrial land along and around the River, a fair port taxation structure, marine safety, channel improvements, public safety and channel maintenance, rail and road access to industrial sites along the Lower Fraser River and streamlined regulatory processes.
For more information about FRIA’s position on these issues, or about FRIA itself, please visit fria.ca.
Jeff Scott is the CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks and Founding Chair of the Fraser River Industrial Association Board of Directors.