Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly
Chevron, the company operating the KM LNG project at Bish Cove and the Haisla Nation have proposed that marine clay from the Bish Cove construction site be used to cap more than 10,000 sunken and rotting logs in Clio Bay. Haisla Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross says he hopes that using clay to cover the logs will help remediate the environmentally degrading sections of the Bay. The proposal has brought heated controversy over the plan, both among residents of Kitimat and some members of the Haisla Nation, who say that Clio Bay is full of life and that the capping will cause irreparable damage.
An investigation by Northwest Coast Energy News shows that capping thousands of sunken logs is a lot more complicated and possibly costly than anyone has considered. It is also clear that many of the comments both supporting and opposing the Clio Bay project are based on guesses rather than the extensive scientific literature available on the subject.
Northwest Coast Energy News findings include:
- In 1997, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans surveyed sunken log sites in Douglas Channel. The results, published in 2000, identified 52 sites just on Douglas Channel and the Gardner Canal that had various levels of enviromental degradation due to sunken logs. Clio Bay was not the list. The DFO scientists recomended followup studies that never happened.
- Scientific studies show that degradation from sunken logs can vary greatly, even within one body of water, due to depth, currents, number of logs, and other factors. So one part of a bay can be vibrant and another part environmentally degraded due to low levels of dissolved oxygen and decaying organic material.
- If KM LNG wasn’t paying for the remediation of Clio Bay, it could be very expensive. Capping sunken logs at a cove near Ketchikan, Alaska, that is the same size and shape as Clio Bay cost the US and Alaska governments and the companies involved $2,563,506 in 2000 US dollars. The total cost of the cleanup of the site which was also contaminated with pulp mill effluent was $3,964,000. The estimated cost of capping the logs in the Alaska project was $110 per cubic yard.
- The Alaska project shows that a remediation project means while most of the logs in a bay or cove can be capped, in some parts of a water body, depending on currents, contamination and planned future use, the logs have to be removed and the area dredged.
- Agencies such as the State of Alaska, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers all recommend using “clean sand” for capping operations. Although “clay balls” have been used for capping in some cases, the US officials contacted say they had no record of large amounts of marine clay ever being used for capping. They also noted that every log capping project they were aware of happened in sites that had other forms of contamination such as pulp mill effluent.
- Chevron only recently retained the environmental consulting firm Stantec to study Clio Bay. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has told District of Kitimat Council it recently completed mapping of the seafloor at Clio Bay. The Alaska project was preceded by five years of monitoring and studies before capping and cleanup began.
- A letter from Fisheries and Oceans to the District of Kitimat says that Clio Bay has been mapped and the department is planning to monitor any capping operations. However, it appears from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website that the department has no current policies on remediation since the Conservative government passed two omnibus which weakened the country’s environmental laws. According to the website, new remediation policies are now being drafted. That means that although DFO will be monitoring the Clio Bay operation, it is uncertain what standards DFO will be using to supervise whatever happens in Clio Bay.
Northwest Coast Energy News is continuing its investigation of the sunken logs problem. Expect more stories in the days to come.