Douglas Channel in Black and White

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The long, magnificent fjord known as Douglas Channel was carved by a glacier thousands of years ago, some of the islands are rock uplifted by tectonic forces, others piled up by retreating glaciers.

So far, since I returned to Kitimat, I have had few chances to “go down the Channel,”  as the people of Kitimat say.

Of course, when I do go,  I always have a camera with me, even in the roughest weather–and the Channel can be rough most of the year.

It is in these waters that the energy industry, both the Enbridge Northern Gateway and the Liquefied Natural Gas projects want to use supertankers to send their products to markets in Asia. Many of the photographers who come to Douglas Channel in high summer choose to capture the brilliant colours of ocean, forest and mountain, as I have on several assignments.

For this gallery, I have chosen to use black and white to show the stark beauty of the mountains, the often menacing seas and the clouds, ever changing, as the westerly winds from the Pacific drive those clouds against the mountains.

Images from this gallery are available for purchase for personal, editorial and commercial  use on Photoshelter. Simply click on the image above.

Links: New South Pacific ship disaster spills fuel off Christmas Island

The grounding of a ship off Christmas Island, an Australian territory, is turning into an environmental disaster, according to local news reports.

A Panama-flagged cargo ship carrying phosphate, the MV Tycoon split in two at Flying Fish Cove off Christmas Island Sunday afternoon. Local authorities say a huge swell ripped the ship from its moorings. Experts warned that the spill was a potential disaster for the ecologically important area, with crabs, birds and coral all threatened.

ABC News (Australia)Locals to tackle Christmas Island shipwreck spill (Dramatic video)

Sydney Morning Herald
Sunken ship oil spill leaves endangered species at risk
(includes video report)
Tycoon has history of problems: Greenpeace

The Western Australian Disaster zone as oil slick threatens wildlife

Australian Associated Press (via Herald Sun) Oil spilling from ship at Christmas Island

The MV Tycoon broke up just hours after the container Rena broke up off New Zealand.

Activists ramp up scrutiny of Enbridge Northern Gateway plans. I Western approaches

Energy Environment

596-Wagner1.jpgDieter Wagner, of Douglas Channel Watch, briefs District of Kitimat Council on the perils of Wright Sound, Oct. 17, 2011. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Activists in northwestern British Columbia are ramping up their scrutiny of  Enbridge’s plans for the Northern Gateway pipeline, including the company’s contingency plans in case something goes wrong.

There is also growing controversy over one part of the pipeline process that is separate from the Joint Review Panel, the TERMPOL process that is supposed to ensure the safety of shipping on the west coast.  TERMPOL, which is run by the Canadian Coast Guard on behalf of Transport Canada, has two major flaws, opponents say, first, that unlike the Joint Review Panel, TERMPOL’s proceedings are secret and, second, participation in the process for shipping companies and others is voluntary.

At the regular bi-weekly meeting of the District of Kitimat Council on Monday, Oct.  17, 2011 Dieter Wagner, of the group Douglas Channel Watch gave a detailed analysis of what his group says are the dangers involved in shipping supertankers along the west coast of British Columbia and up the Douglas Channel to Kitimat.

Wagner told the Council that the TERMPOL documents on Northern Gateway shipping are confusing, contradictory and often difficult for the layperson, even those with years of experience in the waters of  northwestern British Columbia to follow.

Wagner said that many areas of the coast approaching Douglas Channel are tricky to navigate with shallow water, rocks and shoals and thousands of crab traps, all very close to the proposed tanker routes.  Wagner said the TERMPOL study shows that in some of the areas approaching the Channel, the charts show 10 fathoms, (60 feet or 18.28 metres) while the supertankers draw 70 feet.

Wagner said that on some parts of the coast, sailors can see kelp, often growing on gravel beds, and since growing kelp is less than 70 feet high, it is another area that could be damaged if a tanker runs aground.

That means, Wagner said, the smallest mistake would mean that tankers would run aground. He also pointed out the plans for the pilots to board the tankers once the ships are already in shallow water.  He cautioned the plans say that under some circumstances, boarding by the pilot could be delayed, probably by bad weather and he doubted whether the companies involved would want to delay their tankers by two or three or more days, as BC Ferries are sometimes delayed in really rough weather.

The most dangerous area, Wagner said, is Wright Sound at the entrance to Douglas Channel, where the tankers would have to make a tight turn to enter the Channel.  Ferries and other ships heading south also have to make a turn and it was in Wright Sound that the ferry Queen of the North went off course, struck Gill Island and sunk. Wagner told the District Council what the Gitga’ata  First Nation said at last year’s Enbridge rally, the Queen of the North is still leaking oil.

(Other people in the Kitimat region, including the aboriginal people who have sailed the area for thousands of years, also express concern about Wright Sound, not only due to congestion from all the traffic using the Inside Passage but because of tricky winds and currents, especially in bad weather).

Wagner also said he doubted the extra navigational aides that Enbridge has promised to install along the route would stop human error accidents any more than traffic lights do.

He also said the up to 225 supertankers that would be used for the Northern Gateway project, crossing the Pacific to China or going down to California would greatly add to the green house gases going into the atmosphere from what he said was half a billion tons a fuel a year burned by the ships.  Tugs, liquified natural gas tankers and other ships would also to the emissions.

He concluded by saying that there are no Canadian regulations governing the use of the escort tugs contemplated by Enbridge’s plans.  Wagner also said that everything in the documents from Enbridge are just promises and there is no way at the moment to ensure that the promises are kept.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Councillor Randy Halyk, who is also a candidate for mayor, told his colleagues that one of the biggest problems with the review of the Northern Gateway is the secrecy of the TERMPOL process.

DFO, Coast Guard to “shed services” documents obtained by CBC say

Environment Fishery


Documents obtained by CBC News say there are major cuts coming to DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Fisheries and Oceans to ‘shed’ services

Employees of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans were told Wednesday their employer will soon be significantly smaller, and responsible for fewer things.

DFO also warned its workers that some of them will definitely not be working there once the department completes a $56.8-million budget-cutting plan by 2014.

“More savings are expected in the future,” said a letter signed by Deputy Minister Claire Dansereau and two other top officials.

The letter and supporting documents, which were obtained by CBC News, say reductions are part of a “dynamic change agenda,” and will apply broadly to services that include the Canadian Coast Guard.

B.C. hunting, fishing guides frustrated by lack of government support

Fishery Business

B.C. hunting, fishing guides frustrated by lack of government support: CBC News
By Robin Rowland, CBC News

SPECIAL REPORT: Small business news and features

Along the fjord known as the Douglas Channel in northwestern B.C., the winds are at gale force as Rick Thompson, the owner-operator of a floating fish lodge called the Tookus Inn, sets off from Kitimat harbour to close up for the season. Like many in his industry, he has poured much time and energy into building his outfitting business and he’s frustrated by staffing problems and the fact that guides seem to have fallen off the map when it comes to government support.

Al Arabiya turns its eyes on Kitimat

Energy link

The English-language website of one the world’s major Arab-language satellite television networks  Al Arabiya, has turned its eye on Kitimat, the Northern Gateway pipeline and the repeated claim by the Conservative government that Canada is an “energy super power.”

The article:  Canada: Energy Superpower?  is an analysis by Mary E. Stonaker, described as “an independent scholar, most recently with the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore.” Stonaker puts Canada’s energy policy, including the pipelines to Kitimat, in a world wide perspective, summing up the story for  Saudi-owned Al Arabiya‘s main audience in the oil-rich Middle East. It doesn’t just look at oil and gas energy, but hydro, solar and wind.

“Northern Gateway” has yet to be fully hatched though it is encouraging to see Canada expand its partnerships beyond its southern neighbor especially during the recent economic downturn. Relying too heavily on one consumer, no matter who that consumer may be, is setting up an extremely weak energy security strategy.