Kitimat council calls on Joint Review Panel, Enbridge to ensure viability of town water supply

District of Kitimat council votes on JRP motion
District of Kitimat Council votes unanimously Apr. 2 to inform the Joint Review Panel about concerns about the town's water supply. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

District of Kitimat council voted on Monday, April 2, to ask the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel to ensure that the town’s water supply is protected if the controversial pipeline is built. A second motion called on Enbridge to give the district a detailed and public presentation on its provisions to protect the water supply in the case of a pipeline breach along the Kitimat River.

That second motion was passed after a motion from Councillor Phil Germuth holding Enbridge responsible for any disruption to the water supply was defeated by a vote of 4-3. However, council’s new motion did not preclude Germuth asking Enbridge his original questions about liability.

Germuth had presented council with the two original motions, after a presentation in March
by Douglas Channel Watch about the dangers avalanches could present to the Enbridge twin pipelines along the Kitimat River watershed.

The first motion called on the District of Kitimat to present a written position to the Joint Review Panel based on the district’s status as a government participant emphasizing the potential dangers to the water supply and noting that the mayor and council are “legally responsible to make every effort to ensure the city of Kitimat’s water supply is uninterrupted and of the highest quality.”

Phil Germuth
Councillor Phil Germuth (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

After introducing the motion, Germuth said he believed the motion went along with council’s position to remain neutral because nothing in the motion took a position for or against the project.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff said he supported the motion without supporting all the details of Germuth’s full statement, a indication of the more intense debate to come over the second motion.

Mary Murphy also supported the motion, pointing to the potential problems of “transporting hydrocarbons” by both tanker and pipeline.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she had a problem with the motion because had earlier passed a motion saying it would wait to take a position until after the Joint Review Panel had reported.

Councillor Corinne Scott said she would speak for the motion, agreeing that this was a request for information and not saying council was for or against the project, adding “we are all concerned about the potential of what could happen to our water supply.”

Read Councillor Phil Germuth’s motions (pdf)

Feldhoff agreed that a letter to the JRP was not taking a position, adding, that on receipt of a letter the Joint Review Panel should take a very serious look at the issue of the water supply of Kitimat. Monaghan agreed but said if the council was to write the letter that it be accurate.

Feldhoff then proposed a friendly amendment calling on District staff to write a draft letter to the Joint Review Panel that council could then examine and agree to.

With the amendment, the motion passed unanimously.

Germuth’s second motion was more contentious, calling on Enbridge to provide detailed plans for ensuring the quality of water for the District of Kitimat and accepting “full liability” for the restoration of the Kitimat’s “entire water system” in case of a pipeline breach. Although some councilors had reservations about Germuth’s list of items, they agreed that Enbridge be called to meet council “face to face,” as Monaghan put it, by responding in person rather than by letter.

Enbridge had already responded to the motion from the previous meeting, calling on it to respond to the concerns raised by Douglas Channel Watch about the possibility of avalanche danger in the Nimbus Mountain area.

In an e-mail to council, Michele Perrett of Enbridge maintained that most of the issue had been addressed by Enbridge in either its original filing with the Joint Review Panel or by subsequent responses to information requests to the JRP, adding

Specifically we have filed geotechnical studies and responded to information requests that include information on avalanches, rock fall, glaciomarine clay slides, debris flows and avulsion in the Kitimat area and have reviewed information filed on this subject by intervenors.

The e-mail said that Drum Cavers, a geotechnical specialist would be making a presentation to council on Monday, April 16.

Enbridge e-mail to District of Kitimat Council (pdf)

Monaghan noted that Douglas Channel Watch and other groups are limited by council policy to 10 minutes and that Murray Minchin had told council that to be fair, Enbridge’s response should also be limited to 10 minutes. Council agreed that the 10 minute limit is needed to make sure that council meetings finish on time and there was some discussion of allowing Enbridge to make a more lengthy presentation outside of a regular council meeting. That would allow Enbridge to not only respond to the earlier concerns about the Nimbus Mountain avalanche danger but also to the concerns about the town’s water supply.

Some members of council, led by Feldhoff, also expressed reservations about the seven points raised by Germuth; others wanted to possibly add their own concerns to any questions for Enbridge. Feldhoff was not prepared to vote for the original motion without more information.

Feldhoff then asked that the district administration prepare a report on the water supply, saying “I think the concerns may be somewhat overstated at the moment.” Councillor Rob Goffinet also called for a report from district staff on the “ramifications for our water supply,” adding that council should not “engage with Enbridge” until that report was ready.

Germuth’s motion, with all of the original questions, along with the invitation for Enbridge to make a public presentation, was then defeated by a vote of 4-3.

Councillor Scott then moved as part of the presentation that Enbridge was earlier invited to present that water issues be added to the list and that council draft a list of questions for the company, that could include Germuth’s original questions.

Germuth asked if the council could put a time limit on Enbridge’s response because the federal budget calls for limiting to the Joint Review Panel. Feldhoff responded that the new motion concerned council’s concerns just with Enbridge and that council should be respectful of Enbridge and hopefully the company could integrate those questions as well.

Goffinet said he wanted Enbridge to know all of the district’s concerns and so, in effect, this motion would get what Councillor Germuth wanted but by a different route, adding that if Cavers, Enbridge’s geotechnical expert, was unable to answer the question, Enbridge would be asked to return and answer the questions at a later date at a public meeting.

That motion passed unanimously.



Mary Murphy clarified her remarks in an e-mail by saying

I stated I had concerns with all hydro carbons transported along the river coastline…like CN Rail and transporting hydro carbons and the likelihood of a derailment etc, andhow that would also effect our waters. CN Rail is and has been transporting hydro carbons, etc for some time, and have had severe derailments.

BC understands Gateway won’t create long term jobs, poll for Cullen shows

A poll released by Skeena Bulkley Valley MP and NDP leadership candidate, Nathan Cullen, shows that the majority of B.C. residents understand that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project will not create long-term employment.

A release from Cullen’s office says that 61% of respondents to the Mustel poll believe that “most jobs are short-term and many long-term jobs will be lost because unrefined oil is being shipped to other countries for refining.”

This result contradicts an earlier Ipsos Reid poll conducted in December 2011. In that poll, respondents cited employment and economic reasons to be the main benefit.

“People get that the project will not create permanent jobs,” said Cullen said. “We certainly want jobs in my riding, but people are not going to settle for short-term cash instead of long-term value-added jobs.”

It its initial submission to the Joint Review Panel, Enbridge states that the project will offer less than 80 direct permanent jobs in B.C., Cullen’s release says.

“Most have understood that this project poses major risks to the environment. These poll results show that British Columbians see that there would be economic losses as well.”

The poll also showed that the majority of B.C. residents are aware of the proposed pipeline project, and that opposition outweighs support for the project.

A total of 87% are familiar with the proposal and have read or heard something about it. 46% oppose the construction of a pipeline in contrast to 37% who support it. The remaining 17% are undecided or do not have an opinion.

“The results convey what I’ve already heard on the ground,” said Cullen, who commissioned the survey. “There is simply too much at risk to push the project through.”

These findings also contradict the earlier Ipsos Reid poll where only 42% of respondents were somewhat or very familiar with the project. It also showed that only 32% opposed the pipeline.

“It appears that at the same time knowledge of the project is growing, so is opposition,” said Cullen.

The Mustel survey was based on 500 interviews completed by telephone (landlines and cellular) January 25 to February 8, 2012 with a margin of error of +/-4.4% at the 95% level of confidence.


Kitimat Council to consider new Enbridge forum after warning about avalanches on pipeline route

Douglas Channel Watch
Angus McLeod and Margaret Stenson, members of the environmental group Douglas Channel Watch, wear "ocean blue" scarves at a meeting of the District of Kitimat Council, March 5, 2012. The "ocean blue" scarves represent the group's determination to protect the oceans. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

District of Kitimat Council will consider a motion at its next meeting on March 19 to hold a second community forum on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The notice of motion was introduced by Councillor Mario Feldhoff after a request for a new forum by the environmental group Douglas Channel Watch.

Murray Minchin called for the forum after a presentation to council about the avalanche dangers at Nimbus Mountain, where Enbridge plans a tunnel through the mountain.

Minchin said Enbridge has not done a forest survey on Nimbus Mountain where the pipeline would emerge from the tunnel. However, a survey by Douglas Channel Watch members of tree growth on Nimbus Mountain, Hoult Creek on the pipeline route and Hunter Creek which are tributaries of the Kitimat River, shows strong evidence of previous avalanches which could cause serious damage to the twin bitumen and condensate pipelines.

Minchin says that documentation filed by Enbridge with the Joint Review Panel shows that while an Enbridge response crew could reach a breached pipeline in that area in four hours, it would also take four hours for as much as two million litres of diluted bitumen spilled in that area to reach the Kitimat River estuary.

The lower slopes in the area have a large population of young, small, closely packed trees and lumpy rock material on the forest floor that show that it is periodically “swept clean by avalanches,” Minchin told the council.

The young trees in the area are small because they are growing on rockfall, and there are no mature trees. There are large boulders on the lower slopes, another indication of avalanche or rock fall, Minchin said.

He showed images of middle aged hemlocks farther up the slope near the proposed tunnel exit that sometime in the past had their tops ripped off. Damage to the spreading branches of the trees on one side indicate that the trees were hit by an avalanche when they were young.

There is evidence of a major rockfall on the mountain about 50 metres above the proposed tunnel exit with rock fall material clearly visible on the forest floor. The curve of the hemlocks in the area indicate that there is still downhill movement on the slope, Minchin said.

That means, he said, that with the plans calling for the twin pipelines to be suspended 200 metres in the air over Hoult Creek, that could be hit by an avalanche.

He said the presence throughout the area of “avalanche alders” combined with the fact that there are no hemlocks, is an indication, Michin said, of regular avalanche activity.

Giant boulder brought to Houlte Creek by an avalanche
This photograph from Douglas Channel Watch shows a giant boulder and a fallen hemlock in area close to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline at Houlte Creek, BC. (Douglas Channel Watch)

He showed a photo of a large boulder, perhaps the size of a carport, 100 metres from the proposed tunnel exit that was brought to the area by an avalanche.

He said a study of the age of young balsam would tell an expert when the last massive avalanche occurred “but it won’t tell us when the next one will occur.” The steep slopes on Mount Houlte, leading to the pipeline route along Houtle creek mean that area which feeds the Kitimat River has seen many avalanches in the past.

The pipeline then goes into the Hunter Creek area, which Minchin says, Enbridge’s own experts have warned is also vulnerable to avalanches. At Hunter Creek, avalanche debris could temporarily dam the creek, and then, when the debris is released by spring melt or water pressure, that could a create a flash flood; a flash flood that could damage the pipelines.

He pointed to the fact the cleanup of the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan had been shut down for the winter because the bitumen becomes too sticky to move. He then asked how much longer would it take to clean up a spill under the winter conditions of the Kitimat area. Noting that Enbridge has admitted the Kitimat river would be closed for fishing for “at least four years” he asked “How long will the cleanup take…eight twelve? And where would Kitimat get its water?”

Minchin concluded by saying if there is a pipeline breach at Hoult or Hunter Creeks, despite Enbridge’s plans, the Kitimat River downstream from those creeks would be polluted for years.

He then asked that council organize a new public forum, with three representatives, one from the Haisla First Nation, one from Enbridge and one from an environmental group, adding. “The mayor of Dawson Creek has been trotted out at every one of these forums and is irrelevant, which is why we ask that three people speak to the forum.”

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs take $7 million stake in Northern Gateway project

Energy  First Nations

Note this update: Gitxsan chiefs, band
leaders, “stand in solidarity” opposing Gateway pipeline, say they do
not support Derrick’s Enbridge agreement

Update 2: Enbridge video embedded at end of this story.

Elmer Derrick, representing the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs today announced the Gitxsan Nation was taking a $7 million stake in the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Derrick told a conference call with reporters that the the hereditary chiefs signed the agreement with Enbridge on the basis of a 1997 Supreme Court decision that granted the chiefs “rights and title” to their traditional territory.
Derrick spoke about the poverty of the Gitxsan people, especially after the collapse of the forest industry beginning in the 1980s, with the exhaustion of good quality timber, leaving only pulp trees.  He said “the situation was bleak”  with a high number of  youth suicides then said “young people cannot eat Gitxsan rights and title.”

He said the Gitxsan have been looking for economic development partners in many fields, including mining and biofuels and that Enbridge was one of the companies that had approached the nation with a partnership offer.

The agreement, Derrick said, calls for the pipeline to be built and operated safely by Enbridge.

 Under questioning by reporters, Derrick acknowledged that the Northern Gateway pipeline will only a cover a small area of the 33,000 square kilometres of Gitxsan traditional territory,  “five or six small streams that feed into the Babine Lake.”   (Babine Lake itself is largely in the traditional territory of the Dakleh or Carrier First Nation). Gitxsan traditional territory is partly along the upper reaches of the Skeena River.  Enbridge’s plans call for the pipeline to avoid that area altogether by crossing directly west from the Burns Lake area  over and through  the mountains, including using two tunnels, to the Upper Kitimat River.

Derrick said there had been no consultation with the local band councils,  because, he said, the hereditary chiefs have the right and title to the land. He characterized the band councils as the equivalent of municipal councils.

There are six band councils in Gitxsan traditional territory and like many other BC First Nations there are those who support the hereditary system and those who prefer the elected councils.

There were repeated questions from reporters about how much consultation there had been with the band councils and members of the Gitxsan Nation. Asked if the Gitxsan band councils approved the deal, Derrick replied, “I don’t know.”  He did say that the hereditary chiefs had “conferred”  with the elected officials and had “talked to as many people as possible over the past six years.”

 Derrick said that the $7 million dollar would go into a trust fund, likely for the education and training of younger members of the Gitxsan First Nation. He could not give specific details, but did add that the whole community would be consulted about the trust fund.  That number is based on an offer from Enbridge of  a total of 10 per cent equity in the pipeline project.  With 50 First Nations along the route, Derrick said the Gitxsan will be getting approximately one fortieth of that ten per cent. The pipeline project is estimated to be worth $5.5 billion Canadian.

He said there was no estimate of the jobs that the Gitxsan Nation would get as a result of the agreement.  He noted that the members of the Gitxsan nation travel across northwestern BC in search of work and said that if  Gitxsan worked for the pipeline project, that wouldn’t be much different from other jobs. In response to a question about rumours that the Gitxsan had been in negotiations with Enbridge about operating the “pig”  the robot that monitors the interior of a pipeline for maintenance and safety purposes, he said that was no part of this deal.

Derrick also said he did not anticipate any problems with neighbouring First Nations that have expressed opposition to the pipeline.

Derrick said there was no connection with the announcement Thursday by 131 First Nations from across North America that they opposed the Northern Gateway Pipeline, saying he wasn’t even aware of the Save the Fraser Gathering until asked about it. Derrick said the news of the deal was released “because of the opportunity to sign today.”

Janet Holder, executive vice president of Western Access for Enbridge emphasized to reporters that it was the Gitxsan making the announcement, not Enbridge. Like other, unspecified, agreements with other First Nations along or near the pipeline route,  the Gitxsan agreement had confidentiality clauses and it was up to the First Nations to make public whether or not they had agreements with the company.   Pressed by reporters how many other First Nations had agreements with the company, Holder would not even give a rough figure.

She said “we are making good progress along the right of way and we’re optimistic from our discussions that the majority of First Nations support the project.”

An earlier news  release from Enbridge says:

“Over time we have established a relationship of trust with Enbridge, we have examined and assessed this project, and we believe it can be built and operated safely,” said Chief Derrick. “We believe that the construction of this pipeline is of vital importance to the future of Canadian energy security and prosperity.”

The agreement is expected to deliver at least $7 million in net profit to the Gitxsan people. Enbridge will be providing financing at favourable rates, and the partnership will provide a solid foundation for an ongoing dialogue between the Gitxsan and Enbridge regarding regional renewable energy projects.

“Let me stress that all decisions we make in pursuing business on Gitxsan land remain faithful to the laws of our people, said Chief Derrick. “Those who wish to do business in Gitxsan territory will be held to Gitxsan standards.”

Janet Holder, Executive Vice-President of Western Access for Enbridge, welcomed the announcement and the support of the Gitxsan Nation. “I want to acknowledge the vision demonstrated by Chief Derrick and the Hereditary Chiefs,” said Ms. Holder. “The most significant way in which Aboriginal people can benefit from the Northern Gateway project is by owning a stake in it and sharing in the net income it produces.”

The announcement comes a day after 61 First Nations declared their opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline. According to the Vancouver Sun by the end of the day Thursday, that number had grown to 131 First Nations.

Enbridge video of Janet Holder and Elmer Derrick (via Youtube)

How Kitimat harbour will look if both Northern Gateway and KM LNG go ahead


Detail of a map filed by Enbridge Northern Gateway with the Joint Review Panel showing the foot print of the proposed bitumen terminal and the LNG terminal.  The proposed BC LNG terminal would add a third terminal at North Cove (green text on this map)

A recent filing by the Enbridge Northern Gateway project with the Joint Review Panel shows just what Kitimat harbour and the service area will look like if the liquified natural gas projects go ahead and so does the Northern Gateway.

Three maps show areas where the two pipelines follow the same routes and where they diverge beginning just east of the service centre.  (Larger versions of maps pop up if you click your mouse)

532-EnbridgeLNG4-thumb-500x268-531.jpgIn this map, the Enbridge pipeline is yellow with a black outline, the LNG pipeline is red. Where there are yellow and red alternating squares, that means the two pipelines will follow the same route. Solid orange lines are paved roads,broken orange lines are unpaved roads and the green lines are power lines.

535-EnbridgeLNG3-thumb-500x265-534.jpgJust before the pipelines reach the service centre, they diverge, the yellow Enbridge pipeline following the road route around the periphery of the service centre, while the gas pipeline at first follows the route of the Pacific Trails Pipeline and then snakes off at the hydro substation.  The two pipelines then run parallel just off Haisla Boulevard across from the Rio Tinto Alcan plant. The green line beside the two pipelines marks a hydro line that would be build to power the facilities.

538-EnbridgeLNG2-thumb-500x265-537.jpgThe final map shows the Enbridge pipeline coming into the bitumen/condensate terminal with its large footprint, while the natural gas pipeline continues, crosses Bish Creek and then enters the Bish Cove KM LNG terminal.  If the BC LNG terminal is built at North Cove, just west of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway facility, a branch pipeline would go from the main gas pipeline down to that facility. (There were indications at the June NEB hearings that negotiations were under way on “sharing” gas “molecules” between the two groups).

541-EnbridgeLNG5-thumb-500x447-540.jpgFootprint of the Enbridge Northern Gateway plant.

Enbridge photo maps showing Northern Gateway and LNG routes in pdf format

Parasites greater threat to Coho, other salmon, increasing mortality: Oregon study

Environment  Fishery

A study at the University of Oregon suggests that parasites in fish, including a threatened species of Oregon coho salmon, may have a greater impact on fish health than previously believed.  Chronic parasite infection could be increasing the mortality in salmon and other fish species, leading to another factor in declining stocks.

Mike Kent, a University of Oregon microbiologist, who is the main author of the study says: “We’ve known for a long time that salmon and other fish are affected by parasites, so that isn’t new… parasites have been present for decades, they have often been dismissed as a cause of increasing salmon mortality.”

498-6033402498_57993a8b5c_m.jpgThe study,  which took place on the West Fork Smith River concluded that heavy loads of parasites can affect salmon growth, weight, size, immune function, saltwater adaptation, swimming stamina, activity level, ability to migrate and other issues. Parasites drain energy from the fish as they grow and develop.

“But we’re now getting a better appreciation that it’s the overall parasite load that is so important,”  Kent says. “The higher levels of mortality only show up with significant increases in the parasite burden.”

(Image courtesy University of Oregon)

Kent says the number of parasites affecting salmon in Oregon rivers has been increasing slowly over the years, due to warmer waters and more nutrients in the water that can be a result of logging, agriculture, inadequate bank protection and other land use changes over many years.

“Salmon can actually tolerate a fairly wide range of temperatures, it’s not just the fact a stream is warmer that’s killing them, in and of itself,” Kent says. “We now believe that some of these forces are leading to heavier parasite loads. This could be important in understanding declining salmon populations.”

Parasites that can infect salmon and other fish have complex life cycles, which could include passing through the intestinal tracts of birds that eat fish, then producing eggs that infect snails. The snails thrive in warmer water where fertilizer runoff provides them nutrients.

The salmon eat the snails, completing the cycle.

The impact of parasites on fish health was much more severe in parts of the West Fork Smith River where water moved more slowly and nearby logging and agricultural practices increased water temperature and nutrient loads. Fish in those areas had parasite infestations about 80 times higher than those higher up in the tributary.

The infections impact the salmon’s ability to survive, especially if juvenile fish are infected, that reduces their ability to survive the winter and also affects swimming ability, meaning the juvenile fish are more vulnerable to predators.


“Understanding why certain salmon populations are heavily infected with these parasites, which likely are driven by landscape characteristics, could help in management or recovery planning,” the scientists wrote in their conclusion, “given that our data indicates that severity of these infections are associated with survival.”

The study was done by scientists from OSU and the Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The corresponding author was Jayde Ferguson, a doctoral student in the OSU Department of Microbiology, and other collaborators included researchers from the OSU Department of Statistics, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Carl Schreck in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. The research was supported by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.The study will be published soon in the journals Aquaculture, Journal of Parasitology, and International Journal of Parasitology.

University of Oregon news release

Enhanced by Zemanta