05/23/2013 11:35 EDT | Updated 07/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Coal terminal expansion vital, argues Fraser Surrey Docks

The CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks says the future of the facility is in jeopardy if a new coal terminal isn’t approved.

Jeff Scott says much of the dock’s business and half its employees disappeared after the global economic downturn in 2008.

The first of two public meetings looking at the controversial project will be held Thursday in Surrey. Scott met with reporters in advance of the open house to make clear what’s at stake.

"This is an important piece of business for us,” he said. “We sustained a pretty significant downturn in business over the past five years and without this project our future would be in jeopardy."

If approved, four million metric tons a year of coal from Wyoming and Montana would be loaded onto barges on the Fraser River and towed to ships waiting on Texada Island in the Georgia Strait, then loaded onto freighters travelling to Asia.

But there the project brings with it a host of concerns over coal dust, train noise and even more rail traffic.

Scott says they’ve been listening to the community and come up with solutions.

“Fraser Surrey is committed to operating in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. Fraser Surrey has worked with air quality experts to design the entire project in order to minimize dust emissions and other potential air quality impacts,” he said.

"We believe that the project addresses the concerns of our neighbours and delivers environmental standards that we all expect and deserve.”

The open house will be held at the Sheraton Guilford Hotel in Surrey at 5:30 p.m. PT. Another open house is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the same location.

The Surrey Board of Trade has said it supports the coal-transfer facility expansion, as it would increase economic development and create jobs.

Port Metro Vancouver will have the final say on the project. A decision is expected in the next two or three months.