Clio Bay: Haisla desire to clean up bay led to proposal to cap Clio with marine clay, Ross says

Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly

Clio Bay
Clio Bay, looking toward Douglas Channel, September 14, 2013. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)


Haisla First Nation Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross says the Haisla made the proposal to the KM LNG project, a partnership of Chevron and Apache, to use the marine clay to cover the thousands of logs at the bottom of Clio Bay after years frustration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the BC provincial government, which for decades ignored requests for help in restoring almost fifty sunken log sites in Haisla traditional territory.

The problem is that remediation of the hundreds of sites on Canada’s  west coast most containing tens of thousands of sunken logs has been so low on DFO’s priority list that even before the omnibus bills that gutted environmental protection in Canada, remediation of sunken log sites by DFO could be called no priority.

Now that the KM LNG has to depose of a total of about 3.5 million cubic metres of marine clay and possibly other materials from the Bish Cove site, suddenly log remediation went to high priority at DFO.

The controversy is rooted in the fact that although the leaders of the Haisla and the executives at Chevron knew about the idea of capping Clio Bay, people in the region, both many residents of Kitimat and some members of the Haisla were surprised when the project was announced in the latest KM LNG newsletter distributed to homes in the valley.

Chevron statement

In a statement sent to Northwest Coast Energy News Chevron spokesperson Gillian Robinson Ridell said:

The Clio Bay Restoration Project  proposed by Chevron, is planned to get underway sometime in early 2014. The proposal is fully supported by the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Haisla First Nation Council.  The project has been put forward as the best option for removal of the marine clay that is being excavated from the Kitimat LNG site at Bish Cove. Chevron hired Stantec, an independent engineering and environmental consulting firm with extensive experience in many major habitat restoration projects that involve public safety and environmental conservation.  The Haisla, along with Stantec’s local marine biologists, identified Clio Bay as a site that has undergone significant environmental degradation over years of accumulation of underwater  wood debris caused by historic log-booming operations. The proposal put forward by the marine biologists was that restoration of the marine ecosystem in the Bay could be achieved  if marine clay from Chevron’s facility site, was used to cover the woody debris at the bottom of the Bay. The process outlined by the project proposal is designed to restore the Clio Bay seafloor to its original soft substrate that could sustain a recovery of biological diversity.

Kitimat worried

Non-aboriginal residents of Kitimat are increasingly worried about being cut off from both Douglas Channel and the terrestrial back country by industrial development. These fears have been heightened by reports that say that Clio Bay could be closed to the public for “safety reasons” for as much as 16 months during the restoration project.

The fact that Clio is known both as a safe anchorage during bad weather and an easy to get to location for day trips from Kitimat has made those worries even more critical.

There is also a strong feeling in Kitimat that the residents were kept out of the loop when it came to the Clio Bay proposal.

In a letter to the District of Kitimat, DFO said:

Clio Bay has been used as a log handling site for decades which has resulted in areas of degraded habitat from accumulations of woody debris materials on the sea floor. The project intends to cap impacted areas with inert materials and restore soft substrate seafloor. The remediation of the seafloor is predicted to enhance natural biodiversity and improve the productivity of the local fishery for Dungeness crab. The project area does support a variety of life that will be impact and therefore the project will require authorization from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the Harmful Alteration, Disruption or Destruction (HADD) of fish and fish habitat.

The letter avoids the controversy over the use of marine clay but saying “inert material” will be used. That can only increase the worries from residents who say that not only clay but sand, gravel and other overburden from Bish Cove and the upgrade of the Forest Service Road may be used in Clio Bay. (The use of “inert material” also gives DFO an out if it turns out the department concludes the usual practice of using sand is better. That, of course, leaves the question of what to do with the clay).

Although Ellis Ross has said he wants to see large numbers of halibut and cod return to Clio Bay, the DFO letter only mentions the Dungeness Crab.

DFO website cites pending changes after the passage of the omnibus bills.
DFO website cites pending changes after the passage of the omnibus bills.

Try to search “remediation” on the DFO site and the viewer is redirected to a page that cites the omnibus bills passed by the Conservative government and says

On June 29, 2012, the Fisheries Act was amended. Policy and regulations are now being developed to support the new fisheries protection provisions of the Act (which are not yet in force). The existing guidance and policies continue to apply. For more information, see Changes to the Fisheries Act.

On April 2nd, 2013 the Habitat Management Program’s name was changed to the Fisheries Protection Program.

So, despite what communications officers for DFO and the Harper government may say, there was no policy then and there is no policy now on remediation of log sites. Given Harper’s attitude that LNG and possibly bitumen export must proceed quickly with no environmental barriers, it is likely that environmental remediation will continue to be no priority—unless remediation becomes a problem that the energy giants have to solve and pay for.

Alaska studies

On the other hand, the State of Alaska and the United States Environmental Protection Agency spent a decade at a site near Ketchikan studying the environmental problems related to sunken logs at transfer sites

Those studies led Alaska to issue guidelines in 2002 with recommended practices for rehabilitating ocean log dump sites and for the studies that should precede any remediation project.

The Alaska studies also show that in Pacific northwest coast areas, the ecological effects of decades of log dumping, either accidental or deliberate, vary greatly depending on the topography of the region, the topography of the seabed, flow of rivers and currents as well as industrial uses along the shoreline.

The Alaska policy is based on studies and a remediation project at Ward Cove, which in many ways resembles Clio Bay, not far from Kitimat, near Ketchikan.

The Alaska policy follows guidelines from both the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers that recommend using thin layers of “clean sand” as the best practice method for capping contaminated sites. (The Army Corps of Engineers guidelines say that “clay balls” can be used to cap contaminated sites under some conditions. Both a spokesperson for the Corps of Engineers and officials at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation told Northwest Coast Energy News that they have no records or research on using marine clay on a large scale to cap a site.)

The EPA actually chose Sechelt, BC, based Construction Aggregates to provide the fine sand for the Ward Cove remediation project. The sand was loaded onto 10,000 tonne deck barges, hauled up the coast to Ward Cove, offloaded and stockpiled then transferred to derrick barges and carefully deposited on the sea bottom using modified clam shell buckets.

The EPA says

Nearly 25,000 tons of sand were placed at the Ward Cove site to cap about 27 acres of contaminated sediments and 3 other acres. In addition, about 3 acres of contaminated sediments were dredged in front of the main dock facility and 1 acre was dredged near the northeast corner of the cove. An additional 50 acres of contaminated sediments have been left to recover naturally.

A report by Integral Consulting, one of the firms involved at the project estimated that 17,800 cubic metres of sand were used at Ward Cove.

In contrast, to 17,800 cubic metres of sand used at Ward Cove, the Bish Cove project must dispose of about 1.2 million cubic metres of marine clay at sea (with another 1.2 million cubic metres slated for deposit in old quarries near Bees Creek).

Studies at Ward Cove began as far back as 1975. In 1990 Alaska placed Ward Cove on a list of “water-quality limited sites.” The studies intensified in 1995 after the main polluter of Ward Cove, the Ketchikan Paper Company, agreed in a consent degree on a remediation plan with the Environmental Protection Agency in 1995. After almost five years of intensive studies of the cove, the sand-capping and other remediation operations were conducted from November 2000 to March 2001. A major post-remediation study was carried out at Ward Cove in 2004 and again in 2009. The next one is slated for 2015.

Deaf ears at DFO

“We need to put pressure on the province or Canada to cleanup these sites. We’ve been trying to do this for the last 30 years. We got nowhere,” Ellis Ross says. “Before when we talked [to DFO] about getting those logs and cables cleaned up, it fell on deaf ears. They had no policy and no authority to hold these companies accountable. So we’re stuck, we’re stuck between a rock and hard place. How do we fix it?”

Ross says there has been one small pilot project using marine clay for capping which the Haisla’s advisers and Chevron believe can be scaled up for Clio Bay.

Douglas Channel studies

The one area around Kitimat that has been studied on a regular basis is Minette Bay. The first study occurred in 1951, before Alcan built the smelter and was used as a benchmark in future studies. In 1995 and 1996, DFO studied Minette Bay and came to the conclusion that because the water there was so stagnant, log dumping there had not contributed to low levels of dissolved oxygen although it said that it could not rule out “other deleterious effects on water quality and  habitat`from log dumping.”

That DFO report also says that there were complaints about log dumping at Minette Bay as far back as 1975, which would tend to confirm what Ross says, that the Haisla have been complaining about environmentally degrading practices for about 30 years.

Ross told Northwest Coast Energy News that if the Clio Bay remediation project is successful, the next place for remediation should be Minette Bay.

A year after the Minette Bay study, DFO did a preliminary study of log transfer sites in Douglas Channel, with an aerial survey in March 1997 and on water studies in 1998. The DFO survey identified 52 locations with sunken logs on Douglas Channel as “potential study sites.” That list does not include Clio Bay. On water studies were done at the Dala River dump site at the head of the inlet on Kildala Arm, Weewanie Hotsprings, at the southwest corner of the cove, the Ochwe Bay log dump where the Paril River estuary opens into the Gardner Canal and the Collins Bay log dump also on the Gardner Canal.

In the introduction to its report, published in 2000, the DFO authors noted “the cumulative effect of several hundred sites located on BC coast is currently unknown.”

DFO list of sunken log sites on Douglas Channel   (pdf)

Since there appears to have been no significant follow-up, that cumulative effect is still “unknown.”

In 2000 and 2001, Chris Picard, then with the University of Victoria, now Science Director for the Gitga’at First Nation did a comparison survey of Clio Bay and Eagle Bay under special funding for a “Coasts Under Stress” project funded by the federal government. Picard’s study found that Eagle Bay, where there had been no log dumping was in much better shape than Clio Bay. For example, Picard’s study says that “Dungeness crabs were observed five times more often in the unimpacted Clio Bay.”

Although low oxygen levels have been cited as a reason for capping Clio Bay, Picard’s study says that “near surface” oxygen levels “did not reliably distinguish Clio and Eagle Bay sediments.” While Clio Bay did show consistent low oxygen levels, Eagle Bay showed “considerable interseasonal variation” which is consistent with the much more intensive and ongoing studies of oxygen levels at Wards Cove.

Chevron’s surprise

It appears that Chevron was taken by surprise by the controversy over the Clio Bay restoration. Multiple sources at the District of the Kitimat have told Northwest Coast Energy News that in meetings with Chevron, the company officials seemed to be scrambling to find out more about Clio Bay.

This is borne out by the fact, in its communications with Northwest Coast Energy News, Chevron says its consulting firm, Stantec has cited just two studies, Chris Picard’s survey of Clio Bay and a 1991 overview of log-booming practices on the US and Canadian Pacfic coasts. So far, Chevron has not cited the more up-to-date and detailed studies of Ward Cove that were conducted from 1995 to 2005.

Chevron says that Stantec marine biologists are now conducting extensive field work using divers and Remote Operated Vehicle surveys to “observe and record all flora and fauna in the bay and its levels of abundance. Stantec’s observations echoed the previous studies which determined that the massive amount of wood has harmed Clio Bay’s habitat and ecosystem.”

In its statement to Northwest Coast Energy News, Chevron cited its work on Barrow Island,  in Western Australia, where the Chevron Gordon LNG project is on the same island as a highly sensitive ecological reserve. Chevron says the Australian site was chosen only after a thorough assessment of the viability of other potential locations, and after the implementation of extensive mitigation measures, including a vigorous quarantine program for all equipment and materials brought on to the Barrow island site to prevent the introduction of potentially harmful alien species.

Reports in the Australian media seem to bare out Chevron’s position on environmental responsibility. Things seem to be working at Barrow Island.

Robinson went on to say:

Those same high environmental standards are being applied to the Kitimat LNG project and the proposed Clio Bay Restoration project. The proposed work would be carried out with a stringent DFO approved  operational plan in place and would be overseen by qualified environmental specialists on-site.

The question that everyone in the Kitimat region must now ask is just how qualified are the environmental specialists hired by Chevron and given staff and budget cuts and pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to downgrade environmental monitoring just how stringent will DFO be monitoring the Clio Bay remediation?

Alaska standardsIn the absence of comprehensive Canadian studies, the only benchmark available is that set by Alaska which calls for:Capping material, typically a clean sand, or silty to gravelly sand, is placed on top of problem sediments. The type of capping material that is appropriate is usually determined during the design phase of the project after a remediation technology has been selected. Capping material is usually brought to the site by barge and put in place using a variety of methods, depending on the selected remedial action alternative.

Thick Capping

Thick capping usually requires the placement of 18 to 36 inches of sand over the area. The goal of thick capping is to isolate the bark and wood debris and recreate benthic habitat that diverse benthic infauna would inhabit.

Thin Capping

Thin capping requires the placement of approximately 6 – 12 inches of sand on the project area. It is intended to enhance the bottom environment by creating new mini-environments, not necessarily to isolate the bark and wood debris. With thin capping, surface coverage is expected to vary spatially, providing variable areas of capped surface and amended surface sediment (where mixing between capping material and problem sediment occurs) as well as limited areas where no cap is evident.


Mounding places small piles of sand or gravel dispersed over the waste material to create habitat that can be colonized by organisms. Mounding can be used where the substrate will not support capping.

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Clio Bay remediation project “killing two birds with one stone,” Ross says

Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly


Ellis Ross
Haisla Nation Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross at Bish Cove, June 19, 2013. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Haisla Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross says that capping the logs at Clio Bay was a Haisla idea, taking advantage of the opportunity to use the marine clay from Bish Cove to bring back the Clio ecosystem.

The Haisla were told by experts who video taped the bottom of Clio Bay that are between 15,000 to 20,000 sunken logs in Clio Bay.

“I know because I’ve spent a lot of time down there plus my dad actually worked for the booming company for years and knew what was going on out there,” Ross said. “There are two extreme areas we’re talking about, if you look at Clio Bay where it’s estimated that there 15,000 to 20,000 logs down there, imagine what Minette Bay looks like? And it’s all iron, it’s steel. It’s not just wood, there are a lot of cables down there.

Retrieved cables
Cables retrieved from Ward Cove, Alaska, during dredging and capping in 2001. (EPA)

“The Haisla have known about the degradation of our territory for years. The problem we have as Haisla members is to restore the habitiat is that nobody wants to clean up the habitat. This was our idea, after review from technical experts from DFO as well as our own experts. We’re looking for a three way solution, with the company, DFO and the Crown and the Haisla.”

“I’d love to go and catch halibut and cod, like my ancestors used to.”

He said that the Haisla have beem aware of environmental problems from sunken logs for decades and have been asking for cleanup of degraded areas since 2004, not just at Clio Bay, but in the Kildala Arm and at Collins Bay, which were studied by DFO in 1997.

“The logs are down there, they are oxidizing, but no one wants to do anything about it, including the company and including the Crown. We had independent people come in and review it and have them come up with a recommendation. There was a small scale project [involving marine clay] that proved that this could work.

“This system here is killing two birds with one stone, get rid of the clay and try to remediate some of the habitat,” Ross said.

He said that the original estimate of marine clay excavated at Bish Cove was 10,000 cubic metres. That has now risen to about 3.5 million cubic metres because the KM LNG project is digging deeper for the foundation of the LNG terminal. The original plan called for disposing 1.2 million cubic metres at sea and another 1.2 million cubic metres on land.

“The original idea was to dump the clay in the middle of the ocean. In small amounts it could have been mitigated, but in large amounts we said ‘no.’ If we try to dump clay in the middle of the channel, we have no idea where it’s going to end up, what the effect is going to be.” Ross said. “We did the same thing here for the terrestrial side, we said ‘OK that with the rock quarries above Bees Creek,’ use the clay to help remediate that as well, bring it back.”

Asked about Ward Cove in Alaska, where the US Environmental Protection Agency ordered a cleanup, Ross said. “The difference here is that no one is ordering these companies to clean up the sites, they walk away. No one is taking responsiblity, The Haisla are trying to do this within the parameters they’ve given us.So if someone could come in and order these companies and do something, we’ll look for something else to do with the clay. Until that day comes, the Haisla are still stuck with trying to bring back this land by ourselves. If the District of Kitimat wants to pay the bill, great. Let’s see it.

“We need to put pressure on the province or Canada to cleanup these sites. We’ve been trying to do this for the last 30 years. We got nowhere. Before when we talked about getting those logs and cables cleaned up, it fell on deaf ears [at DFO]. They [DFO] had no policy and no authority to hold these companies accountable. So we’re stuck, we’re stuck between a rock and hard place. How do we fix it?”

Ross also noted that Shell’s LNG Canada project also faces remediation problems, “Shell is going to have the same problem, their’s is going to be different, they’re going to have get rid of contamination on the ocean bottom and beneath that it’s basically going to be gravel, it’s not clay, they’re going to have get rid of that product.”

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Clio Bay: Ward Cove, Alaska, benchmark for log remediation

Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly

Ward Cove
Ward Cove, Alaska, in 2005, after the remediation of the bay was completed in 2001 and old industrial buildings were being demolished. (EPA)


Ward Cove, just eight kilometres west of Ketchikan, Alaska, was so polluted by effluent from pulp and saw mills and a fish plant, and filled with 16,000 sunken lots that it qualified for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup.

The Ward Cove project is now considered a benchmark for cleaning up similar bays. Alaska officials emphasized to Northwest Coast Energy News, that while Ward Cove does provide guidelines for capping and dredging logs, they were not aware of any project where logs were capped that did not have other forms of contamination.

If you take a look at satellite images of Clio Bay, BC and Ward Cove side by side you immediately you see the similarities and differences between the two bodies of water. (Note due to parameters of Google Earth, images are slightly different scales)

Satellite image of Clio Bay
Google Earth image of Clio Bay
Google Earth image of Ward Cove, Alaska
Google Earth image of Ward Cove, Alaska

Both Clio Bay and Ward Cove are 1.6 kilometres long, somewhat elbow shaped, off a main channel and surrounded by mountains.Ward Cove is 0.8 kilometres wide. Clio Bay is about 0.5 kilmetres wide, 0.8 at its widest point. Both have steep slopes from the mountains. Ward Cove is 61 metres deep at the mouth of the cove, descreasing toward the head. Clio Bay is deeper, 182 metres at the mouth, 90 metres in the centre and between 20 metres and 9 metres at the head.

Both Clio Bay and Ward Cove are subject to tidal circulation. Both Clio Bay and Ward Cove are also influenced by fresh water. Ward Cove is fed by Ward Creek, a smaller Walsh Creek and runoff precipitation the enters the cover from the steep mountain slopes. Clio Bay is fed by one creek, a number of small streams and mountain slope runoff, especially during the spring melt.

Haisla Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross estimates there are between 10,000 and 20,000 sunken logs in Clio Bay. The official summary from the United States Environmental Protection Agency said there were 16,000 sunken logs in Ward Cove.

The major difference with Ward Cove is that it was the site of major industrial development including a pulp mill, a sawmill and a fish plant. That meant the level of pollutants in Ward Cove were much higher than in Clio Bay, which has never been used for an industrial plant. It was the pollutants in Ward Cove, mainly ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and 4-methylphenol combined with the thousands of sunken logs that made the cove a target cleanup and the associated studies.

A fish plant, Wards Cove Packing opened in 1912 and ceased operations in 2002. The Ketchikan Paper Company mill began operating in 1954 and closed in 1997. Prior to 1971, with the rise of the enviromental movement no permits were required by KPC for discharging effluent into the cove. After that the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a discharge permit and monitored effluent. Throughout the time the KPC mill was operating, the EPA says, “high volumes of log storage (approximately 7 billion board feet) caused accumulation of bark waste and sunken logs at the bottom of the cove.” Gateway Forest Products, a sawmill and veneer plant, continued to store logs in Wards Cove until 2002.

A 2009 monitoring report, conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers after the cleanup for the EPA noted:

An ecological risk assessment was also conducted using a food-web assessment to estimate risks of bioaccumulative chemicals to representative birds and mammals at the top of the Ward Cove food web. The chemicals evaluated were arsenic, cadmium, mercury, zinc, chlorinated dioxins/furans, and PAHs. The results of this assessment indicated that there are no unacceptable risks to higher trophic level organisms in Ward Cove.

A human health risk assessment was conducted to identify potential risks posed by chemicals detected in sediments or seafood (e.g., fish, shellfish). Ingestion of seafood that may contain chemicals bioaccumulated from the sediments was identified as the only complete exposure pathway for humans. The chemicals that were evaluated included: arsenic, cadmium, mercury, zinc, phenol, 4-methylphenol, chlorinated dioxins/furans, and PAHs. Results concluded that sediments in Ward Cove do not pose an unacceptable risk to human health.

A 2007 report on the Wards Cove remediation from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, noted:

The continuing residues impairment in Ward Cove is caused by the historical accumulation of wood waste on the bottom of the cove. The waste includes an estimated 16,000 sunken logs over at least 75 percent of the bottom and decomposing pulp, wood, and bark waste in sediments in thicknesses up to 10 feet over at least 50 percent of the bottom. Wood waste residues can displace and smother organisms, alter habitat, release leachates, create anoxic conditions, and produce toxic substances, all of which may adversely affect organisms that live both on top of sediments and within sediments.

That is a similar problem to Clio Bay.

The report notes that problems with oxygen increase with depth, noting:

The dissolved oxygen impairment was due largely to the fish-processing waste discharge from the seafood processing facility until 2002, and it was limited to the summer months in deeper waters of the cove (below the picnocline, or stratification layer, approximately 10 meters deep). With that discharge removed, limited monitoring in August and September 2003 indicated that dissolved oxygen impairment might remain near the bottom in waters at depths of 30 meters and greater at certain times and locations due to low natural levels of dissolved oxygen and the continuing decomposition of wood waste. Above 30 meters depth, the waters of the cove appeared to meet the [Alaska state] standard for dissolved oxygen. However, there may be limited capacity for waters at 30 meters and deeper to receive additional loading of oxygen-demanding materials and still meet the standard in summer months.

That should mean that the worries about oxygen depletion at Clio Bay are justified due to Clio’s greater depth.

Studies of the biology of Ward Cove began in 1951, with more in the 1960s and one in 1974. In 1995, Ketchikan Paper Company signed a consent decree with the EPA that called for remediation of Ward Cove, In 2000, KPC and Gateway Forest Products signed a second consent decree with the EPA. Those agreements called on the companies to dredge sediments to improve navigation, remove logs and other debris from the dredging areas and “placing a thin-layer cap of 15-30 cm (six to 12 inches) of sand over about 11 hectares (27 acres) of sunken logs.”

The major studies of Ward Cove began in 1995 after first consent decree. The remediation did not take place until the initial studies were complete in 1999, with dredging and capping taking place from November 2000 to March 2001.

The EPA positioned 13 water quality monitoring stations which operated from 1997 to 2002, to measure salinity, temperature and disolved oxygen, nine inside Ward Cove and four outside the cove in Tongass Narrows. Those studies showed that levels of dissolved oxygen in the cove varied by season, depth and location. Many species from salmon to mobile bottom dwellers like crabs were often able to detect and avoid low oxygen areas.

The plan

The EPA and the companies involved planned the remediation so that it included both dredging, capping logs and sediment and leaving some areas where nature would take its course.

The reports say that complete dredging, removal and disposal of the contamination would have cost $200 million,  The total actual cost of the Ward Cove Remediation Project, beginning with development of the Remedial Design Work Plan, was estimated to have cost $3,964,000 (in 2000 US dollars).

The EPA says cost for the capping component of the project “including preliminary field investigations and reporting, design and plans development, post construction engineering, procurement, construction management, project management, mobilizationm demobilization, engineering/QC and science support, surveys, and capping items” was $2,563,506. Based on the volume of capping material placed, the unit cost of log capping for the Ward Cove Remediation Project was $110 per cubic yard.

Sunken logs retrieved at Ward Cove.
Old logs retrieved from Ward Cove, Alaska during dredging operations to improve navigation. (EPA)

The plan called for dredging about 17,050 cubic yards in the area near the cove’s main dock and the dredging of 3,500 yards metres nearby to improved navigation. Before the dredging, 680 tonnes of sunken logs had to be removed. After dredging, a “thin-layer cap of clean, sandy material” was placed in dredged areas unless native sediments or bedrock was reached during dredging.

In other areas, most covered in sunken logs, the plan called for placement of a thin-layer cap (approximately 6- to 12-inches) of clean, sandy material, with the possibility of “mounding” dropping mounds of sand on specific areas. The 2009 report says the area of sand deposits actually increased “due to the fact that thin layer placement was found to be successful over a broader area, and it was not necessary to construct mounding.”

The plan called for natural recovery in areas where neither capping nor mounding was practicable and so about 50 acres was left alone. (DFO says it plans to leave some parts of Clio Bay uncapped as “reference areas.”)
Slope and sand

Sand capping at Ward Cove
A dredging barge depositing clean sand (originally from Sechelt, BC) during capping operations at Ward Cove, Alaska in 2001. (EPA)

Two studies were carried out as part of the remediation at Ward Cove that do not appear to be contemplated at Clio Bay. The first looked at the “ability of the organic material to support the weight of 15 to 30 centimetres of sand.” Standard engineering equations used at other fill and capping sites were used as part of that study. A second study was carried out to determine the “minimum safety for a given slope,” which given the steep mountains that line Clio Bay, are likely to be factor in the deposit of marine clay. That study determined “For a silty fine sand and a factor of safety of 1.5, the maximum slope would be approximately 40 per cent.”

Those studies led to the conclusion that for the Ward Cove remediation project, the material to be placed on the fine organic sediment could not be gravel and course sand.”

That’s because the larger gravel and course sand “would tend to sink into the sediment and would not provide quality benethic (seabottom) habitat.”

The project decided to use “fine to medium sand with minimal fines.” It also concluded “Because of the very soft existing sediments and steep slopes at Ward Cove, the … material must be released slowly so that the settling velocity is low and bed impact minimized.”

That meant that the EPA had look for a source of quality sand that met their criterion. The sand was found at Construction Aggregates in Sechelt, BC, loaded on 10,000 tonne deck barges, tugged up the coast, unloaded onto land using a conveyor and stockpiled while more tests were done to determine how to deposit the sand on the sunken logs.

Sand bucket at Ward Cove
Dredging bucket modified to deposit sand during capping operations at Ward Cove, Alaska. (EPA)

Sand was placed on a smaller barge and taken to the deposit site. Initial tests were done with a mechanical dredge equipped with a clamshell bucket. The operator deposited the sand using “swaths” released from the bucket. To make it work properly, the bucket, as supplied by a manufacturer had to be modified by welding baffle plates to the bucket and lengthening the chains to insure consistent deposition of the sand. Two computers with special software called WINOPS, designed for dredging operations  “provided the operator and deck engineer the precise locations of the derrick barge position” in order to ensure precise deposition of the sand. WINOPS dredge positioning and guidance software. The WINOPS system made use of three differential global positioning receivers. One GPS receiver was located at the top of the derrick and provided the center positioning of the dredge bucket. Two fixed receivers, one near the starboard center spud and one near the center aft, provided the barge position and heading.

Although using marine clay is likely to produce different engineering challenges at Clio Bay, it is not currently clear that the project has contemplated the level of precision that was used at Ward Cove.

While KM LNG must find a way to dispose of the marine clay from the Bish Cove excavation site, there is a silver lining for the Haisla Nation’s aim of restoring both Clio Bay and the other 50 sites in their traditional territory, since the Kitimat Sand Hill would likely be a ready resource for any future projects.

The EPA considered the project finished in September 2001, and long term monitoring began, with major updates every five years in 2004 and 2009.

An EPA report on the 2004 review showed that the three sand-capped areas and one shallow natural recovery area (not sand-capped) had achieved biological recovery; three other natural recovery areas tested had not achieved biological recovery but were making significant progress.

The  2004 studies showed that benethic (sea bottom) communities in uncapped areas showed “species commonly found in areas where organic enrichment is low or declining.” adding “In three other natural recovery areas, benthic communities have not progressed as far toward recovery but are making significant progress.

By the time of the 2009 update, most of the old industrial infrastucture on land at Ward Cove had been demolished and the land area was slated for redevelopment. Many of the companies that had been there had either gone out of business or had declared bankruptcy and the land was taken over by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough,mostly through foreclosure.

The EPA declared that “The remedial action construction is complete, and the remedial action is an operating or ongoing remedial action.”

The 2009 report says that the project was successful in eliminating sediment toxicity. The area was then quickly being recolonized by a diverse bottom dwelling macroinvertebrate species and those species were spreading beyond the specific study areas, so recovery of Ward Cove is expected to continue.

However the 2004 report went on to say that “the achievement of stable benthic biological communities with balanced species composition in more than 75 percent of the area with documented coverage by wood residues on the bottom of Ward Cove” would happen within 40 years from the 2004 study.

The next review of Ward Cove is slated for August 2015.


Sand capping
Diagram of a sand capping operation from a barge. (US Army Corps of Engineers)


Diagram of a sediment capping operation knowing as diffusion (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Diagram of a sediment capping operation knowing as diffusion (US Army Corps of Engineers)



Diagram of a Japanese system called tremie that uses a hose system to deposit capping material on the seabed. (US Army Corps of Engineers)

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Clio Bay Editorial:Hire the experts. This is not the time to be learning on the job

Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly


Hire the experts. This is not the time to be learning on the job.

Everyone in the Kitimat and Kitamaat Village are facing a dilemma, a dilemma that should have been solved a year ago, when it was first known that the KM LNG project at Bish Cove had grossly underestimated the amount of marine clay and other material that has to be removed for the liquified natural gas terminal, a total of about 3.5 million metric tonnes.

The Haisla and Chevron are proposing that much of the clay be deposited over sunken logs in Clio Bay.

Chevron, which only took over operations at KM LNG in December 2012, is still learning on the job.

When the Clio Bay capping plan became public, far too late in the process, only then did Chevron begin to take a serious look public worries about the environmental problems that might result from depositing all that marine clay in Clio Bay.

Chevron hired Stantec, a well-known international  consulting firm with close ties to the energy industry and some experience in remediation to evaluate Clio Bay. Although Chevron said in a statement that Stantec is a company  “with extensive experience in many major habitat restoration projects,” it appears that Stantec, in the case of Clio Bay, is a jack of all environmental trades and master of none, just learning on the job.

In answer to questions by Northwest Coast Energy News, Chevron cited two studies supplied to them by Stantec. One was Chris Picard’s (now with the Gitga’at First Nation) study of Clio Bay which anyone can find by using a Google Search. The second was an overview chapter of west coast North American logging practices from a book published 22 years ago.

Any of the web saavy undergraduate journalism students I once taught at Ryerson University could have done better. This semi-retired reporter, without the resources he once had in a major newsroom, easily found the studies of the log filled Ward Cove, the State of Alaska’s recommended remediation practices, the capping procedures recommended by the US Army Corps of Engineers and more. Chevron did not mention Stantec citing the 1995 DFO study of nearby Minette Bay which can easily be found on the DFO website.

A letter from Fisheries and Oceans to District of Kitimat Council only mentions Dungeness crab and not the Haisla desire to restore halibut and cod to Clio Bay. That can only raise suspicions that the DFO is also depending solely on Chris Picard’s limited survey of Clio Bay.

In Alaska, at Ward Cove, there were almost five years of studies on the ocean environment before part of the cove was dredged and parts of the cove with thousands of logs there were capped with fine sand.

The people of Kitimat and Kitamaat want the LNG project to proceed. Everyone wants a clean and sustainable ocean enviroment, whether in Clio Bay, Minette Bay or down Douglas Channel. The problem of that 3.5 million cubic metres of marine clay must be handled in a timely fashion so the LNG terminal can move to the next step in the coming months. There is no time for five years of studies before proceeding.

This site would not normally endorse one large corporation over another.

There isn’t time for Chevron and Stantec to be learning on the job, its technicians racing in their boats between Clio Bay and Bish Cove trying to figure out what is going on and casually asking people what they think. No time at all.

The clock is ticking. Chevron and Apache, in partnership with both the Haisla and the District of Kitimat, should immediately hire the companies that do have the expertise in remediating a northwest Pacific coast bay filled with sunken logs, the companies that cleaned up Ward Cove in Alaska. Integral Consulting was the main environmental consulting contractor at Ward Cove, assisted by another large firm, Exponent  and by Germano and Associates, a company that  according to its website specializes in “rapid seafloor reconnaissance”. Both Integral and Exponent are, like Stantec, giant international consulting firms.  In this case, experience has to count. While Stantec’s website does list remediation projects, none are similar to Clio Bay.

A letter from Fisheries and Oceans to the District of Kitimat says that:

Chevron will be required to conduct a pre-construction, construction and post construction monitoring program. Pre-construction monitoring will include collection of baseline information that will be used to assess effectiveness monitoring during and at the completion of the project. Water quality monitoring for turbidity and total suspended solids will be undertaken during construction to determine if established performance criteria are met.

From the reports available from both the EPA and the State of Alaska it appears that the companies that cleaned up Ward Cove did just what DFO is asking, assess and monitor.  Another reason to hire the experts rather than the newbies.

Why a three way partnership? Chevron/Apache and the Haisla Nation are already partners in the Clio Bay plan. Adding the District of Kitimat would establish trust and make sure that the results of any scientific and engineering studies, plans and operations would be available to the people of Kitimat (as well as some Haisla members who feel they were excluded) as part of the ongoing process. The partnership would make up for the lack of transparency up until now, make sure the public is kept up-to-date and not just by Chevron’s and DFO’s communications people since reports to the District could be reviewed by the engineering staff and members of council.

It is likely that those companies that worked at Ward Cove could quickly let everyone know whether the idea of capping at Clio Bay with marine clay is a viable option and if it is viable how to do it properly rather than just dumping the clay from a barge using a hose. If marine clay is not viable for Clio Bay, it is likely that those firms could advise whether one of the original plans, to dump the clay in the deep ocean, is a better solution, or if there is another alternative that no one has thought of.

Kitimat and Kitamaat are lucky. The recommended practice for capping sunken logs is using sand. There is here a ready source at the Kitimat Sand Hill. If marine clay is not a viable option, or for future projects, the Sand Hill can easily be used to fulfill the aims of both the Haisla Nation and the residents of Kitimat to clean up Clio Bay, Minette Bay and eventually all 50 other sites identified along Douglas Channel by DFO in 1997. Those consulting firms have the expertise in this area and that expertise should be utilized.

Learning from the job

Even though sand has a track a record in capping, using marine clay from Bish Cove  to cap the logs at Clio Bay is probably a good idea, after all that marine clay was once at the bottom of the Ice Age Douglas Channel.

The use of sand for capping sites is well-known, there are established engineering parameters. At Ward Cove, there were studies of the angle of the slopes and how much weight of sand that the debris could hold.  Sand is very different from marine clay. At the moment, there are no engineering parameters for marine clay. It appears that no one has thought of doing slope analysis and load bearing engineering studies at Clio Bay.

Marine clay is a potential cap for all the sunken log sites on Douglas Channel and on the whole Pacific coast from Oregon to Alaska.  That means that Clio Bay is a pilot project that should be planned as carefully as possible, within the time constraints needed for construction of the LNG terminal, but not regarded as a rush job to get rid of that clay.  That means taking the time needed to do all the necessary scientific and engineering studies before the first drop of clay heads to the bottom. That is another reason to hire experts who actually know what they are doing so everyone can learn from the job.



No matter how the cleanup of Clio Bay proceeds, KM LNG, the Haisla and the District of Kitimat are facing another dilemma. What standards and benchmarks should be applied to the project?

By law, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible and will, of course, be monitoring the cleanup.

Despite assurances in a letter to the District of Kitimat, it is clear that DFO too is learning on the job.

At the moment, DFO has no standards for remediation, because the Conservative omnibus bills have gutted environmental standards in Canada. Even before the omnibus bills and the LNG rush, cleaning up log dumps was on the DFO low low priority list.

The letter from DFO to District of Kitimat council shows what knowledgeable sources have told us, DFO will be navigating Clio Bay from a desk in Kamloops (of all places). The same sources say that the Prince Rupert office of DFO, which has the expertise on the northwest coast is out of the loop on this project. The residents of the northwest coast already know there are not enough fisheries officers to properly monitor the coast. DFO “estimates” the annual recreational halibut catch (perhaps by using fish entrails rather than the traditional chicken?). DFO has retired or laid off many scientists who have studied the coast. Others have left on their own. The remaining scientists are muzzled by the Harper government, with anything they could say filtered by the Prime Minister’s Office, so it is likely that no one in the northwest will actually trust what they say.

Normally in a free and democratic society, the government tells local residents when a major operation like the remediation of Clio Bay is going to occur.  In this case, Fisheries and Oceans did not tell anyone in Kitimat anything until the District of Kitimat Council requested information.

On Monday, Sept. 30, a representative of Chevron will make a presentation to District Council. DFO did nothing more than send a letter that said: “Regretfully, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is unable to attend the scheduled council meeting.” Nobody, in the whole department? One is tempted to say, “That’s not good enough.” Then you remember that if DFO appeared before Council, the presenter would have to face possibly awkward questions from both members of Council and the media. That just doesn’t happen in Stephen Harper’s Canada, not in Ottawa and certainly not in Kitimat.

Despite what DFO has said in its letter, this regulatory vacuum leaves the Kitimat region no choice. Since Canada has no standards, when the Clio Bay project proceeds, the best available standards are those set by Alaska, which has the same type of coast and climate. The Clio Bay clean up should therefore be measured against those Alaska standards.
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Chevron announces open house on Clio Bay, seeks input from stakeholders

Updates with open house location

Chevron LogoChevron, the partner with Apache in the KM LNG (also known as Kitimat LNG) project at Bish Cove, said Sunday that the company will hold an open house in Kitimat on the controversial Clio Bay reclamation project.

Chevron says there will be a public open house at Riverlodge Tuesday, October 8 from 4 pm to 8 pm.

In an e-mail to politicians and local groups, including Douglas Channel Watch, Marc Douglas, a senior advisor for Chevron, based in Calgary, invited local stakeholders for a series of one hour meetings the same day at the KM LNG offices in City Centre.

Chevron Canada invites you to a meeting to discuss the Clio Bay Marine Life Restoration Project.
This proposed project would see Chevron excavate marine clay from the Kitimat LNG construction site at Bish Cove and work closely with the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to deposit this natural material in specific locations in Clio Bay. The clay will cap-off decaying wood debris left by historic log booming operations that has accumulated on the bottom of Clio Bay, damaging the Bay’s natural ecosystem. A key goal of the project is to restore natural marine life populations in Clio Bay. Come and share your thoughts and ideas with us and learn more about this innovative restoration project.


Ad for open houseThere has been growing controversy over the Clio Bay project in recent weeks. Members of the Haisla Nation and residents of Kitimat were initially told that due to the large number of sunken logs at Clio Bay, that the area was deprived of oxygen, with limited sealife and that capping the logs with clay from Bish Cove would restore the ecosystem. However, beginning with a discussion at District of Kitimat Council on September 3, more people have been challenging the idea that Clio Bay needs restoration, with fishers posting photographs of recent catches on Facebook pages.

On Sept.3, Councillor Phil Germuth told Council:  “Those logs have actually created a woody reef, where like any other reef, an ecosystem is being sustained. So to say that those logs are suffocating the life out of Clio Bay doesn’t seem to have a lot of merit.”

At the time, Chevron told the media  that they had consulted with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and  concluded that carefully placed clay would improve the ecosystem.

Special report: Clio Bay cleanup: Controversial, complicated and costly

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PART FOUR: State Department assessment of the railway to Rupert route for bitumen

Here are edited portions of the EIS assessment for a major oil terminal at Prince Rupert

Environmental Setting

The EIS says “the local surface geology at the Prince Rupert site consists of bedrock (granitic rocks) overlain by glacial outwash and a thin soil cover.” and goes on to note that “Prince Rupert is located along the coastal region of Canada, which is seismically active.”

Potential Impacts

At Prince Rupert, depth to bedrock is expected to be relatively shallow, so rock ripping and some blasting could be necessary. The impacts of rock ripping and blasting are limited to the immediate area and would not result in any significant impacts to the underlying or nearby geology. Excavation activities, erosion of fossil beds exposed due to grading, and unauthorized collection can damage or destroy paleontological resources during construction.

(The report notes that The potential for finding paleontological resources in the areas that would be disturbed is unknown. But the area of the coast has been heavily metamorphisized and most fossils, so far, have been found further inland, largely along the Copper River near Terrace)

In terms of geologic hazards, the Prince Rupert terminals would be located along the coastal region of Canada, which is seismically active. In addition, the presence of steep slopes increases the risk of landslides and the port’s coastal location increases the risk of flooding…. The Prince Rupert rail terminals and port facilities would be designed to withstand potential seismic hazards and flooding…

Construction of the proposed terminals and port expansion in Prince Rupert would result in the disturbance of approximately 3,500 acres (1,400 hectares) of land for the construction of the rail terminal complex and approximately 1,200 acres (487 hectares) for the expansion of the port. Potential impacts to the soils resources of the area could result from vegetation clearance, landscape grading, and recontouring to ensure proper drainage, the installation of storm water drainage systems, construction of the required infrastructure, and other construction activities.
One of the primary concerns during construction activities is soil erosion and sedimentation.
Potential impacts to soils from erosion are expected to occur in areas where the slopes are greater than 20 per cent and where the erosion potential due to their nature is high. Based on available landscape and soils information, the soils found in the area are not highly erodible and the required infrastructure would be located in areas that are relatively flat. Therefore, the impact of the proposed terminal complex and port construction activities on soil erosion would be minor.


Environmental Setting

The Prince Rupert Terminals and port expansion would occur in British Columbia on Kaien Island, which receives about 102 inches of rainfall per year. The terminals would be located on an inlet that is part of the eastern Pacific Ocean on the Venn Passage near the much larger Inland Passage, which extends from Washington State to Alaska along the islands and mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Venn and Inland Passages are marine (salt water) waterbodies. The islands consist of bedrock (granitic rocks) overlain by glacial outwash and a thin soil cover.
Groundwater is shallow, poor quality, and unused. Drinking water is derived from lakes on the mainland. Water quality in the terminal complex area is seawater and inland brackish.

Potential Impacts

During construction of the facilities at Prince Rupert, the primary potential impacts to groundwater would be spills or leaks from construction equipment. Mitigation for these impacts includes having in place appropriate plans in place and appropriate cleanup materials available.
During operations of the facilities at Prince Rupert, the primary potential impacts to groundwater would again most likely be spills or leaks from operation equipment or associated with crude oil unloading of railcars. Although the initial impacts of potential releases or spills may be contained or limited to soil, potential impacts to groundwater may occur depending on the depth to groundwater, soil characteristics (e.g., porosity, permeability), spill volume and extent, and whether the spill reaches surface water bodies, some of which are interconnected to groundwater.

Surface Water
Environmental Setting

The upland character surrounding the potential Prince Rupert terminal area is dominated by bog forest uplands and the flowing surface water bodies are predominantly precipitation- and shallow groundwater-fed intermittent streams. Some open waterbodies are present in the southeast portion of Kaien Island. Tidal shore zones are of a rugged and rocky nature and receive wave energy generated by naturally occurring fetch and large wakes from marine traffic. Winter winds are strong and from the southeast to southwest, with surface currents predominantly northward from the Hecate Strait. Lighter summer winds have less influence on currents and allow freshwater runoff from land and deep water tidal effects to exert more control and provide variation in summer current patterns. Significant wind and tidal mixing tend to occur where waters are shallow and around islands and rocky points of land. The coastal landscape is predominantly fjords carved into the granitic Coast Mountains, created by the last of several glacial periods approximately 12,000 years ago. Shores tend to be rocky and steep with beaches restricted to sheltered areas adjacent to estuaries and the navigable straits and channels provide a wide variety of exposures and habitats.

Potential Impacts

Construction of the facilities at Prince Rupert would disturb approximately 4,700 acres. The primary potential impacts to surface waters include erosion and sedimentation and spills/leaks of hazardous materials. Mitigation for these impacts includes having in place appropriate SPCC plans in place and appropriate cleanup materials available.
During operations, the primary potential impacts to surface waters include storm water runoff, spills, or leaks from operation equipment or associated with crude oil unloading of railcars.
Provision of storm water management measures would mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff.

Terrestrial Vegetation
Environmental Setting

The Prince Rupert terminals and port facilities would be located in the Coastal Gap Level III Ecoregion. The vegetation immediately adjacent to the Pacific Ocean includes stunted, opengrowing western red cedar, yellow cedar, and western hemlock with some stunted shore pine and Sitka spruce . There are also open areas present within the affected areas. It is unclear if biologically unique landscapes or vegetation communities of concern exist within the proposed Prince Rupert terminal complex boundary.

Potential Impacts

The proposed rail terminal complex and port facilities at Prince Rupert would require the clearing of up to 4,700 acres of natural vegetation, most of which is forested based on aerial photo interpretation. There does not appear to be any biologically unique landscapes or communities of conservation concern within the terminal complex boundary. Nearly all of these impacts would be permanent as natural habitats are converted for use as rail terminals and port facilities.

Environmental Setting

Many wildlife species use this coastal area for hunting, foraging, roosting, breeding, and nesting (Tourism Prince Rupert 2012). Wildlife characteristic of this ecoregion include grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), black bear (Ursus americanus), mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus
columbianus), wolf (Canis lupus), moose (Alces alces), mink (Mustela sp.), bald eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus), seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and grouse (Tetraoninae)
The Prince Rupert terminal complex would be located in the Northern Pacific Rainforest(Region 5) bird conservation region, which is an ecologically distinct region in North America…

The coast of the Northern Pacific Rainforest is characterized by river deltas
and pockets of estuarine and freshwater wetlands set within steep, rocky shorelines. These wetlands provide critical nesting, wintering, and migration habitat for internationally significant populations of waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species. The area includes major stopover sites for migrating shorebirds, especially western sandpipers (Calidris mauri) and dunlins (Calidris alpina). Black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani), rock sandpipers (Calidris
ptilocnemis), black turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala), and surfbirds (Aphriza virgata) are common wintering species. Nearshore marine areas support many nesting and wintering sea ducks. Many seabirds breed on offshore islands, including important populations of ancient murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus), rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata), tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), common murre (Uria aalge), western gull (Larus occidentalis), glaucouswinged gull (Larus glaucescens), and Leach’s storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa). Pelagic
waters provide habitat for large numbers of shearwaters (Calonectris spp. and Puffinus spp.), storm-petrels (Hydrobatidae), and black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)

Potential Impacts

Direct impacts could occur due to vegetation removal or conversion, obstructions to movement patterns, or the removal of native habitats that may be used for foraging, nesting, roosting, or other wildlife uses (Barber et al. 2010). Indirect impacts to wildlife are difficult to quantify and are dependent on the sensitivity of the species, individual, type and timing of activity, physical parameters (e.g., cover, climate, and topography), and seasonal use patterns of the species (Berger 2004). Most of these impacts would be essentially permanent.

Environmental Setting

Prince Rupert is an important deepwater port and transportation hub of the northern coast of British Columbia. It is located on the northwest shore of Kaien Island, which is connected to the mainland by a short bridge. The town of Prince Rupert is just north of the mouth of the Skeena River, a major salmon-producing river. Key commercial fisheries include Pacific salmon, halibut, herring, and groundfish, which are processed from Prince Rupert.

Prince Rupert area supports a high density of streams and rivers that host an array of valuable recreational fisheries for salmon, steelhead (anadromous rainbow trout), rainbow trout, lake trout, cutthroat trout, char, Arctic grayling, and northern pike .

Potential Impacts

New impacts to commercial and recreational fisheries’ habitats from the construction and operation of the facilities in Prince Rupert could include marine intertidal zones as well as fish spawning zones (e.g., herring), if present. There would likely be short-term impacts to the benthic (bottom dwelling) community during construction of the berths and mooring facilities. Bottom-dwelling
fish (i.e., halibut, flounder, and rockfish) and marine invertebrates (i.e., clams, mussels, crabs, and other bivalves and crustaceans) could potentially be impacted during construction as well, but these affects are expected to be minor and temporary or short-term in duration.

Additional shipping traffic would increase underwater sound because large vessels, including tankers, put out relatively high noise levels. Fish and other aquatic organisms (including invertebrates and marine mammals) use sound as a means of communication and detection within the marine acoustic environment. Increased shipping traffic could mask natural sounds by increasing the ambient noise environment from Prince Rupert Harbor and along the marine route to the Gulf Coast area. Long-lasting sounds, such as those caused by continuous ship operation, can cause a general increase in background noise and there is a risk that such sounds, while not causing immediate injury, could mask biologically important sounds, cause hearing loss in affected organisms, and/or have an impact on stress levels and on the immune systems of aquatic species.

Exotic and invasive species are sometimes transferred in the ballast water of tanker ships.
Monitoring and controls would need to be implemented to treat ballast water discharged into Prince Rupert Harbor such that invasive or exotic species would not be released into the marine environment.

Threatened and Endangered Species

This section focuses on animal and plant species present in the Prince Rupert area that are Canada SARA protected. As a coastal area along the Pacific Migratory Bird Route, and an area that receives a lot of precipitation and is heavily forested, many wildlife species inhabit the area, as discussed in Section, Wildlife. According to the British Columbia (B.C.) Conservation Data Centre (2012), only one SARA threatened/endangered species is known to occur in Prince Rupert—the green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), a Pacific Ocean inhabitant. In addition, several SARA special concern species occur in Prince Rupert, including western toad (Anaxyrus boreas), coastal tailed frog (Ascaphus truei), North American racer (Coluber constrictor), grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus), and Stellar sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

Potential Impacts

The green sturgeon is typically found along nearshore marine waters, but is also commonly observed in bays and estuaries. The expansion of the proposed port facility could have minor adverse effects on the green sturgeon, but the sturgeon could readily avoid the port area.
Increased shipping traffic at Prince Rupert and as the vessels transit to the Gulf Coast area refineries may affect the feeding success of marine mammals (including threatened and endangered species) through disturbance, because the noise generated by tankers could reduce the effectiveness of echolocation used by marine mammals to forage for food. Whales use underwater vocalizations to communicate between individuals while hunting and while engaged in other behaviors. Increased underwater noise from additional shipping traffic could disrupt these vocalizations and alter the behavior of pods of whales. Moreover, additional boat and
tanker traffic could also increase the potential for collisions between marine mammals and shipping vessels. These effects would be additive in nature and could potentially add to existing disturbance effects and collision risks caused by the current level of shipping traffic, commercial and recreational fishing, and cruise ship passage.

Land Use, Recreation, and Visual Resources
Environmental Setting

Land use, recreation, and visual resources for the Prince Rupert area where the new terminals and expanded port facilities would be built differ sharply from the other terminal sites. Prince Rupert is located on an inlet of the Pacific Ocean in a heavily forested area of British Columbia.
Urban land use is generally limited to the communities in and around the city of Prince Rupert, with some small outlying communities and villages in the area. Given Prince Rupert’s role as a terminus of the Alaska Ferry System, many people see the port and surrounding areas in a recreational context. The area is largely undeveloped and would be sensitive to changes in the visual landscape.

Potential Impacts

If constructed on previously undeveloped land, the new facilities would primarily impact mixed forest… The construction and operational impacts on land use, recreation, and visual resources at the Lloydminster, Epping, and Stroud terminal complex sites and along the Cushing pipeline route would be the same as for the Rail/Pipeline Scenario.

Environmental Setting


Construction and operations activities are not expected to have a significant effect on population and housing for this scenario. Because construction and operations job estimates have not yet been determined for this scenario, worker requirements for Prince Rupert, Lloydminster, and Epping are assumed to be minor..additional temporary housing could be needed in Prince Rupert… Prince Rupert only has about 740 hotel/motel rooms

Local Economic Activity

Tanker infrastructure and operations would be affected as ships transport crude oil from Prince Rupert through the Panama Canal to Texas ports near Houston.

Direct construction expenditures for facilities at Prince Rupert would be approximately $700 million, with approximately 1,400 annual construction jobs, based on the cost estimates of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway marine terminal in Kitimat

Despite the large population of First Nations people in the Prince Rupert area, Canada does not have a similar definition to minorities as the Keystone report applied under US law and so it notes “Impacts to minority and low-income populations during construction and would be similar to those described for the proposed [Keystone] Project and could possibly result in increased competition for medical or health services in underserved populations. Canada does not define HPSA and MUA/P, so it is unknown whether or not the minority populations in Prince Rupert or Lloydminster exist in a medically underserved area.

Tax Revenues and Property Values

It says construction of a new terminal Prince Rupert would generate provincial sales taxes, goods and services taxes, and hotel taxes. Construction of the tank and marine terminals at Prince Rupert…would involve large numbers of road trips by heavy trucks to transport construction materials and equipment to and from the sites. Construction in Prince Rupert could also potentially involve vessel deliveries of material. This traffic could cause congestion on major roadways, and would likely require temporary traffic management solutions such as police escorts for oversize vehicles.

Cultural Resources

Despite the rich heritage of First Nations in the Prince Rupert area, the Keystone alternative study reported;

No cultural resources studies have been conducted for the Prince Rupert area. Review of aerial photographs shows that a small portion of the area that could potentially be developed has already been disturbed by development, including port facilities, structures, and roads. This preliminary review shows that most of the area appears undeveloped and would have the potential for intact buried cultural resources.

The report notes that “Any ground disturbance, especially of previously undisturbed ground, could potentially directly impact cultural resources.”

It goes on to note that the potential to

include intact buried cultural resources would require evaluation through research and cultural resources surveys. If cultural resources were identified, follow-up studies could be required. In general terms, the archaeological potential of heavily disturbed areas, such as might be found in active rail yards or within developed transportation corridors, is normally lower than in undisturbed areas.

Archaeological potential is also contingent upon factors such as access to water, soil type, and topography, and would have to be evaluated for each area to be disturbed. Aboveground facilities have the potential to indirectly impact cultural resources from which they may be visible or audible. The potential for increased rail traffic to contribute to indirect impacts would require consideration.

Air and Noise

The report also summarizes the possible green house gas emissions for the rail and tanker project as whole from Prince Rupert to the Gulf Coast refineres and notes that overall

On an aggregate basis, criteria pollutant emissions, direct and indirect GHG emissions, and noise levels during the operation phase for this scenario would be significantly higher than that of the proposed [Keystone XL] Project mainly due to the increased regular operation of railcars, tankers, and new rail and marine terminals.

Air Quality

The rail cars and tankers transporting the crudes would consume large amounts of diesel fuel and fuel oil each day….The criteria pollutant emissions would
vary by transportation segment, particularly during marine-based transit. Oil tankers traveling from the Prince Rupert marine terminal through the Panama Canal to Houston/Port Arthur pass through several different operational zones, including reduced speed zones leading into and out of the ports, North American Emission Control Areas where the use of low-sulfur marine fuel is mandated, and offshore areas where the tankers travel at cruise speeds.

During the return trip, tankers are filled with seawater (ballast) to achieve buoyancy necessary for proper operation, which affects the transit speeds of the vessel. Furthermore, the tankers spend several days loading or unloading cargo at each marine terminal with auxiliary engines running (an activity called hoteling). The tanker emissions accounted for return trips (i.e., both loaded cargo going south and unloaded cargo going north).

In aggregate, the total operational emissions (tons) estimated over the life of the project (50 years) are several times greater than those associated with the combined construction and operation of the proposed Keyston XL Project

Greenhouse Gases

Direct emissions of GHGs would occur during the construction and operation of the Rail/Tanker Scenario. GHGs would be emitted during the construction phase from several sources or activities, such as clearing and open burning of vegetation during site preparation, operation of on-road vehicles transporting construction materials, and operation of construction equipment for the new pipeline, rail segments, multiple rail and marine terminals, and fuel storage tanks.

Due to limited activity data, GHG emissions from construction of the Rail/Tanker Scenario were not quantified; however, these emissions would occur over a short-term and temporary period, so construction GHG impacts are expected to be comparable to the proposed [Keystone XL] Project.
During operation of the railcars and tankers that comprise this scenario, GHGs would be emitted directly from the combustion of diesel fuel in railcars traveling over 4,800 miles (7,725 km) and fuel oil in marine tankers traveling over 13,600 miles (21,887 km) round-trip.

The Rail/Tanker Scenario would also result in indirect emissions of GHGs due to the operation of 16 new rail terminals, an expanded port, and potential pumping stations. The new rail terminal in Prince Rupert would be projected to require 5 MW of electric power to operate, possibly bring indirect GHG emissions


Noise would be generated during the construction and operation of the Rail/Tanker Scenario. Noise would be generated during the construction phase from the use of heavy construction equipment and vehicles for the new pipeline, rail segments, and multiple rail and marine terminals, and fuel storage tanks. Due to limited activity/design data, noise levels from the construction of this scenario were not quantified; however, this noise would occur over a short term and temporary period, so construction noise impacts are expected to be comparable to those
of the proposed Project. During operation of the railcars and tanker ships that comprise this scenario, noise would be generated from the locomotives, movement of freight cars and wheels making contact with the rails as the train passes, train horns, warning bells (crossing signals) at street crossings, and tanker engines during hoteling and maneuverings at the new rail and marine terminals in Prince Rupert.

(Noise from ocean going vessels which is a concern for coastal First Nations and environmental groups is covered later on impact on wildlife)


Climate Change Effects on the Scenario
Environmental Setting

The Keystone study looks at the affects of climate change, but concentrates largely on the Gulf Coast beause the most of the Rail/Tanker Scenario was outside of the boundaries of the study, but it does note that the sea levels are projected to rise due to glacial melting and thermal expansion of the water. The rate, total increase, and likelihood of the rise is in part dependent on how rapid the ice sheets warm and is a source of ongoing scientific uncertainty.

The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) estimates that sea level rise could be between 3 to 4 feet by the end of the century.

Increasing sea level projected due to climate changes as described above shifts the impact of mean high tide, storm surge, and saltwater intrusion to occur further inland and this would negatively affect reliable operation of the port infrastrucure for tanker traffic. Mitigation of these climate effects could be addressed by making engineering and operational changes at the port.

Potential Risk and Safety
Environmental Setting

The Rail/Tanker Option would combine the risk inherent in both pipeline and oil tanker
transport. However, the risks and consequences for using oil tankers to transport the hazardous materials are potentially greater than the proposed Project. Overall, crude oil transportation via oil tankers has historically had a higher safety incident rate than pipelines for fire/explosion, injuries, and deaths.

Spills have been reported while the vessel is loading, unloading, bunkering, or engaged in other operations

The main causes of oil tanker spills are the following:
• Collisions: impact of the vessel with objects at sea, including other vessels (allision);
• Equipment failure: vessel system component fault or malfunction that originated the release of crude oil;
• Fires and explosions: combustion of the flammable cargo transported onboard;
• Groundings: running ashore of the vessel; and
• Hull failures: loss of mechanical integrity of the external shell of the vessel.

From 1970 to 2011, historical data shows that collisions and groundings were the maincauses of oil tanker spills worldwide.

Potential Impacts

Loading and unloading of the railcars at tank farms near seaports could allow spills to migrate and impact seawaters and shorelines.

However, the loading and unloading are generally carried out under supervision and would be addressed promptly by the operators, limiting the potential migration and impacts of the spill to the immediate area.

Once the tanker is loaded and at sea, the propagation and impacts of a spill could become significant. Oil tankers may carry up to 2,000,000 bbl of oil

A release of oil at sea would be influenced by wind, waves, and current. Depending on the volume of the release, the spreading of oil on the surface could impact many square miles of ocean and oil birds, fish, whales, and other mammals and could eventually impact shorelines. Oil would also mix with particulates in sea water and degrade. As this occurs some oil will begin to sink and either be retained in the water column (pelagic) or settle to the ocean floor (sessile).

Pelagic oil could be consumed by fish or oil fauna passing though the submerged oil. Sessile oil could mix with bottom sediment and potentially consumed by bottom feeding fauna. Spills in ports-of-call could affect receptors similar to an open ocean release but also could temporarily affect vessel traffic and close ports for cleanup activities.

The identification of key receptors along the rail route alternative was not available for this evaluation. Therefore a comparison to the proposed project was not completed.

Surface Water

The Lloydminster to Prince Rupert portion of this route would begin in the western plains at the Saskatchewan/British Columbia border and travel west through an area of high-relief mountains with large valleys, referred to as the Cordillera region. From a water resource perspective, the plains region of Canada is characterized by relatively large rivers with low gradients. The plains rivers drain the Rocky Mountains to the Arctic Ocean. The Cordillera region is largely composed of northwest-southwest trending mountain ranges that intercept large volumes of Pacific
moisture traveling from the west towards the east. River systems in this region are supplied by a combination of seasonal rainfall, permanent snowfields, and glaciers.

The following are larger rivers crossed by the existing rail lines between Lloydminster and Prince Rupert:

• North Saskatchewan River, Alberta
• Pembina River, Alberta
• McLeod River, Alberta
• Fraser River, British Columbia
• Nechako River, British Columbia
• Skeena River, British Columbia


Spills within wetlands would most likely be localized, unless they were to occur in open, flowing water conditions such as a river or in the ocean. A crude oil spill in a wetland could affect vegetation, soils, and hydrology. The magnitude of impact would depend on numerous factors including but not limited to the volume of spill, location of spill, wetland type (i.e., tidal versus wet meadow wetland), time of year, and spill response effectiveness. The construction of additional passing lanes to accommodate increased train traffic resulting from this scenario could
result in permanent impacts to wetlands if passing lanes were constructed where wetlands occur.
However, as there is some leeway regarding the exact location of the passing lanes, it is expected that wetlands would be avoided by design.


The Rail/Tanker Scenario railroad route would cross numerous major streams and rivers in Canada, many of which support anadromous fish species such as salmon.

Anadromous species are those that spawn and rear in freshwater but migrate to the ocean at a certain size and age. Pacific salmon are large anadromous fish that support valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. Commercial fisheries for salmon occur in marine water and most recreational fishing for salmon occurs in freshwater. Salmon eggs are vulnerable to the effects of fine sediment deposition because female salmon deposit their eggs in stream bed gravels.

Despite this vulnerability, the overland railway route is not expected to present any new impacts to salmon unless there is a spill into its habitat, although the risk of spills does increase under this scenario due to the increase in the number of trains that would use the route.

Potential new impacts under the Rail/Tanker Scenario on commercially or recreationally significant fisheries along the route would be minor because the railroads that would be used are already built and in operation. However, the risk of an oil spill or release of oil or other materials still exists. The tanker portion of this route scenario is also subject to oil spill risk.

Threatened and Endangered Species

The rail route would cross over the Rocky Mountain region of western Alberta, which is inhabited by species such as the woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus) (a SARA threatened species) and grizzly bear (a SARA special concern species). This region of British Columbia is home to a number of SARA threatened/endangered species, including the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) (SARA threatened), salish sucker (Catostomus sp.) (SARA endangered), white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) (SARA endangered), caribou (southern mountain population) (SARA threatened), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis laingi) (SARA threatened), and Haller’s apple moss (Bartramia halleriana) (SARA threatened).

A number of additional SARA special concern species inhabit the regions of Canada that would be traversed by the Rail/Tanker Scenario, including but not limited to those special concern species expected to occur in the Prince Rupert region, and discussed above (B.C. Conservation Centre 2012).

Northwest Coast Energy News Special report links

What the Keystone Report says about Kitimat and Northern Gateway
What the Keystone Report says about the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Vancouver.
What the Keystone Report says about CN rail carrying crude and bitumen to Prince Rupert.
The State Department Environmental Impact Study of the railway to Prince Rupert scenario.

State Department news release

State Department Index to Supplemental Environmental Impact Study on the Keystone XL pipeline


Enbridge files massive river oil spill study with the Joint Review Panel

Kitimat River map from Enbridge study
A Google Earth satellite map of the Kitimat River used as part of Enbridge Northern Gateway’s oil spill modelling study.

Enbridge Northern Gateway today filed a massive 11-volume study with the Joint Review Panel outlining possible scenarios for oil spills along the route including the Kitimat and Morice Rivers in British Columbia.

The study, carried out by three consulting firms, Stantec Consuting and AMEC Environmental & Infrastructure both of Calgary and RPS ASA of Rhode Island, is called “Ecological and Human Health Assessment for Pipeline spills.”

Overall the models created by study appear to be extremely optimistic, especially in light of recent events, such as the damning report on by the US
National Transportation Safety Board and the finding of violations by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration with Enbridge operations during the 2010 Marshall, Michigan, spill and subsequent cleanup difficulties encountered by Enbridge.

The executive summary of the report begins by saying

This document presents conservatively developed assessments of the acute and chronic risk to ecological and human receptors in the unlikely event of a full bore pipeline break on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. Three representative hydrocarbon types (condensate, synthetic oil
and diluted bitumen) were evaluated with releases occurring to four different rivers representing a range of hydrological and geographic characteristics, under both low-flow and high-flow conditions. The analysis indicates that that the potential environmental effects on ecological and human health from each hydrocarbon release scenario could be adverse and may be significant. However, the probability of the releases as considered in the assessment (i.e., full bore rupture, with no containment or oil recovery) is low, with return periods for high consequence watercourses ranging from 2,200 to 24,000 years. Therefore, the significant adverse environmental effects as described in this report are not likely to occur.

So the study says that it is “conservative” that means optimistic, that a full bore pipelink break with no containment or recovery is “an unlikely event” and would probably occur every 2,200 and 24,000 years. Not bad for a pipeline project that is supposed to be operational for just 50 years.

The summary does caution:

The analysis has also shown that the outcomes are highly variable and are subject to a great many factors including the location of the spill, whether the hydrocarbons are released to land or directly to a watercourse, the size of the watercourse, slope and flow volumes, river bed substrate, the amount of suspended particulate in the water, environmental conditions (such as the time of year, temperature and wind speeds, precipitation, etc.), the types of shoreline soils and vegetative cover and most significantly, the type and volume of hydrocarbon released.

The highly technical study is Enbridge’s official response to those intervenors who have “requested additional ecological and human health risk assessment studies pertaining to pipeline spills” and a request from the Joint Review Panle for more information about “the long term effects of pipeline oil spills on aquatic organisms (including the sensitivity of the early life stages of the various salmon species), wildlife, and human health.”

The report presents modelling on the release of three hydrocarbons, diluted bitumen, synthetic oil and condensate at four river locations along the pipeline route for their potential ecological and human health effects, under two flow regimes (i.e., high and low flow), broadly representing summer and winter conditions.

Modelling was done for four areas:

• Chickadee Creek: a low gradient interior river tributary discharging to a large river system
located up-gradient from a populated centre within the Southern Alberta Uplands region
• Crooked River: a low gradient interior river with wetlands, entering a lake system within
the Interior Plateau Region of British Columbia
• Morice River: a high gradient river system along the western boundary of the Interior
Plateau Region of British Columbia
• Kitimat River near Hunter Creek: a high gradient coastal tributary discharging to a large
watercourse with sensitive fisheries resources, downstream human occupation, and discharging to the Kitimat River estuary

In one way, the study also appears to be a partial victory for the Kitimat group Douglas Channel Watch because the model for the Kitimat River is based on a spill at Hunter Creek, which has been the subject of extensive work by the environmental group, but the consulting study is markedly optimistic compared to the scenario painted by Douglas Channel Watch in its presentations to District of Kitimat council.

The study describes the Kitimat River:

The hypothetical release location near Hunter Creek is southwest of Mount Nimbus, in the upper Kitimat  River watershed, and flows into Kitimat River, then Kitimat Arm, approximately 65 km downstream. The area is in a remote location and maintains high wildlife and fisheries values. The pipeline crossing near Hunter Creek is expected to be a horizontal direction drilling (HDD) crossing. The release scenario
assumes a discharge directly into Kitimat River…

The streambed and banks are composed of coarse gravel, cobbles and boulders. Shoreline vegetation (scattered grasses and shrubs) occurs in the channel along the tops of bars. Vegetation is scattered on the channel banks below the seasonal high water mark and more developed (i.e., grasses, shrubs and trees) bove the seasonal high water mark.

Wildlife and fish values for the Kitimat River are high: it is important for salmon stocks, which also provide important forage for grizzly bears, bald eagles and osprey on the central coast. The Kitimat River estuary, at the north end of Kitimat Arm, also provides year-round habitat for some waterbirds and seasonal habitat for staging waterfowl.

There is considerable recreational fishing, both by local people and through fishing guides, on Kitimat River, its estuary and in Kitimat Arm. There is also likely to be a high amount of non-consumptive recreational activity in the area, including wildlife viewing, hiking and camping. The Kitimat River estuary, for example, is well known for waterbird viewing.

While no fish were captured at this location during the habitat survey, salmonoid fry and coho salmon were observed downstream. Previously recorded fish species in the area include chinook, coho and chum salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and steelhead trout.

However, the next paragraph appears to show that a full bore rupture on the Kitimat River would have widespread consequences because it would cover a vast area of First Nations traditional territory, saying

Aboriginal groups with traditional territories within the vicinity of the Kitimat River hypothetical spill scenario site include the Haisla Nation, Kitselas First Nation, Kitsumkalum First Nation, Lax-Kw’alaams First Nation and Metlakatla First Nation.

It also acknowledges:

Oral testimony provided by Gitga’at First Nation and Gitxaala Nation was also reviewed in relation to this hypothetical spill scenario, although the traditional territories of these nations are well-removed from the hypothetical spill site.

The report then goes on to list “the continued importance of traditional resources” for the aboriginal people of northwestern BC.

especially marine resources. People hunt, fish, trap and gather foods and plants throughout the area and traditional foods are central to feasting and ceremonial systems. Food is often distributed to Elders or others in the community. Written evidence and oral testimony reported that Coho, sockeye, pink, and spring salmon remain staples for community members. Halibut, eulachon, herring and herring roe,
various species of cod, shellfish, seaweed, and other marine life are also regularly harvested and consumed, as are terrestrial resources, including moose, deer, beaver, muskrat and marten. Eulachon remains an important trade item. Written evidence provides some information on seasonality of use and modes of preparation. Seaweed is dried, packed and bundled and preserved for later use. Each species of
salmon has its own season and salmon and other fish are prepared by drying, smoking, freezing or canning. Salmon are highly valued and often distributed throughout the community…

Some areas used traditionally are not depicted geographically. Upper Kitimat River from the Wedeene River to the headwaters has long been used for trapping, hunting, fishing and gathering of various foods. Fishing, hunting and gathering activities take place along the lower Kitimat River and its tributaries. Marine resources are collected in Kitimat Arm, Douglas Channel, and Gardner Canal. Old village and
harvesting sites are located along the rivers and ocean channels in this vicinity.

Intertidal areas are important and highly sensitive harvesting sites that support a diversity of species. Many intertidal sites are already over harvested and are therefore vulnerable. Conservation of abalone has been undertaken to help the species recover. Some concern was expressed in oral testimony regarding the
potential for archaeological sites and the lack of site inventory in the area. Oral testimony made reference to the Queen of the North sinking and the potential for a similar accident to result in human health and environmental effects.

A spill at Hunter Creek

The model says that all three types of floating oil in Kitimat River under high-flow conditions would reach approximately 40 kilometres downstream from Hunter Creek while low-flow conditions showed variation.

Under what the study calls low flow conditions, most condensate would evaporate. The bitumen would cause “heavy shore-oiling” for the first 10 kilometres, with some oiling up to 40 kilometres downstream.

The most sedimentation would occur for synthetic oil, and the least for condensate. Synthetic oil under both flow conditions would have the largest amounts deposited to the sediments. This is because of the low viscosity of synthetic oil, which allows it to be readily entrained into the water where it may combine with suspended sediments and subsequently settle. Synthetic oil under high-flow conditions would result in the most entrained oil and so the most extensive deposition to the sediment. Diluted bitumen, for both flow conditions, would result in the most deposited on shorelines, with the remainder (except that which evaporated or degraded) depositing to the sediments.
The condensate also would also have significant entrainment, but higher winds prevailing in under low flow conditions would enhance evaporation and rapidly lower concentrations in the water as compared to high-flow conditions. In all scenarios, a large amount of entrained oil and high concentrations of dissolved aromatics would move down the entire stretch of Kitimat River and into Kitimat River estuary.

Long term scenario

The modelling appears to be extremely optimistic when it reaches four to six weeks after the pipeline breach, especially in light of the continued cleanup efforts in Michigan, estimating that the “fast-flowing” nature of the Kitimat River would disipate all the different forms of hydrocarbon in the study saying

 a fast-flowing coastal river like Kitimat River, with gravel or cobble bottom would be affected by a large volume of crude oil released in a short period of time.

Oiling of shoreline soils is heavy in the reaches between the release point and 10 km downstream, becoming lighter to negligible beyond 10 km. Deposition of hydrocarbons to river sediment is greatest for the synthetic oil and diluted bitumen (high flow) scenarios extending up to 40 kilometres downriver, with predicted hydrocarbon concentrations in sediment approaching 1,000 mg/kg dry weight. Deposition of hydrocarbons to river sediment is considerably lighter for the diluted bitumen (low flow) and condensate scenarios. In these scenarios, oiling of river sediment is negligible….

It says that within four weeks of the end of the acute phase of the spill scenarios, concentrations in river sediments and river water would decline becoming quite low at the end of two years.

As for the affects on plants and invertebrates:

Oiling of shorelines would be extensive, particularly at assessment locations within 10 kilometres of the pipeline break location, under both the high and low flow scenarios, for synthetic oil and condensate. High loadings occur as far as 25 kilometres downstream, again asusming that damage would begin to disipate after four weeks declining over the next one to two years. Predicted effects are generally less severe for the diluted bitumen spill scenarios, due to lower expected loading of oil onto shorelines. Low to negligible shoreline oiling would occur for Kitimat River under most of the scenarios at the 40 kilometres assessment location and points downstream. Based on this assessment, very little oiling of shorelines would extend to the estuary and the environmental effects would be minimal.

The study goes on to say that the “model suggests that there would be no significant risk to fish health based upon chronic exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons  for the oil spill scenarios in Kitimat River or the potentially affected areas within the estuary, either at four weeks or one to two years following the hypothetical spill events. Risk to developing fish eggs in Kitimat River and estuary at four weeks and one to two years again indicate no significant risk to developing fish eggs in spawning gravels.”

It also claims that “chronic risks” to wildlife would be minimal, with some elevated risk for “muskrat, belted kingfisher, mallard duck, spotted sandpiper and tree swallow,” if they were exposed to synthetic oil. The muskrat, mallard duck and spotted sandpiper
could be vulnerable to bitumen and diluted bitumen.

It then claims that “no significant effects of chronic exposure (to all hydrocarbons) would occur for grizzly bear, mink, moose, river otter, bald eagle, Canada goose, herring gull or great blue heron for the Kitimat River hydrocarbon spill scenarios.”

Again, it appears from the sutdy that the spotted sandpiper would be most vulnerable to “bulk weathered crude oil exposure” includingcondensate, diluted bitumen and synthetic oil.

For the Kitimat section it concludes:

In the unlikely event of an oil spill, recovery and mitigation as well as the physical
disturbance of habitat along the watercourse would be likely to substantially reduce the exposure of wildlife receptors to hydrocarbons as compared to the scenarios evaluated here.

Link to Volume One of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Report Ecological and Human Health Assessment for Pipeline Spills

Cut back on taking “forage fish” to save salmon and halibut, scientists recommend

A group of international scientists is recommending that fishing for what they call “forage fish,” including herring and anchovy, should be cut in half around the world to help save larger predator species like halibut and salmon.

Harvesting anchovy in Peru
Harvesting anchovy in Peru (Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force)

The expert group of marine scientists, called the Lenforest Forage Fish Task Force, say their worldwide analysis of the science and management of forage fish populations, “Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs,” concluded that in most ecosystems at least twice as many of these species should be left in the ocean as is done now.

The scientist say a thriving marine ecosystem relies on plenty of forage fish. These small schooling fish are a crucial link in ocean food webs because they eat plankton, tiny plants and animals and are then preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins, and dolphins.

The task force says “forage fish” are primary food sources for many commercially and recreationally valuable fish found including salmon, halibut, tuna, striped bass, and cod.
The task force says that if “forage fish” are consumed by other commercially important species they are worth $11.3 billion. But if the “forage fish” are caught themselves, they only generate $5.6 billion as “direct catch.”

Forage fish are used in fish meal and fish oil to feed farmed fish, pigs, and chickens that people consume on a regular basis. Fish oil is also used in nutritional supplements for humans.

“Traditionally we have been managing fisheries for forage species in a manner that cannot sustain the food webs, or some of the industries, they support,” says Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, who convened and led the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force.

“As three-fourths of marine ecosystems in our study have predators highly dependent on forage fish, it is economically and biologically imperative that we develop smarter management for these small but significant species.”

Small schooling fish are an important part of the ecosystem on both coasts of North America. Many marketable species on the Pacific coast feed on the forage fish, including as salmon, lingcod, Pacific hake, Pacific halibut, and spiny dogfish.

A large number of seabird species relies on them as well, and research shows that the breeding success of the federally endangered California least tern may depend on the availability of local anchovy populations. On the eastern seaboard, more menhaden are caught (by weight) than any other fish off the Atlantic coast. Taking out excessive amounts, however, means less food for tuna, bluefish, and striped bass ― as well as whales, dolphins, and seabirds – and affects fisheries and tourism industries from Maine to Florida.

“Around the globe, we’ve seen how removing too many forage fish can significantly affect predators and people who rely on that system’s resources for their livelihoods,” said Dr. Edward D. Houde, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and task force member. “We need to be more precautionary in how we manage forage fish in ecosystems that we know very little about.”

Made up of 13 preeminent scientists with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including UBC, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force was established to generate specific and practical advice to support better management of forage fish around the world. This group of experts, with support from the Lenfest Ocean Program, synthesized scientific research and other information about these species and conducted original simulation modeling to reach their conclusions.

“The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force has provided guidance on how to prevent overfishing of these small prey species,” said Dr. P. Dee Boersma, professor and director of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels at the University of Washington and task force member. “Our hope is that fishery managers will put our recommendations into action to protect penguins, cod, whales, and a whole host of other creatures that need them to survive.”

Links Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force

Tanker traffic could mean safety restrictions for recreational boating and fishing on Douglas Channel

The TERMPOL report issued today on the increased tanker traffic on Douglas Channel may mean restrictions not only on the tankers themselves, as proposed by Enbridge, but also safety restrictions on recreational boaters and both commercial and recreational fishing.

The appendix to the report says:

The collision risk for the proposed tankers is assessed to be low.  Therefore, the effect of implementing the traffic scheme would also be low, and the potential effect on oil spill risk very limited.

However a traffic separation scheme would make it easier for small recreational crafts in the area to keep out of the way of passing larger vessels as they would know which side the tankers would transit.

It also says:

Fishing openings in the waters of Douglas Channel and Principle Channel may affect the timing of vessel transits.

The proponent proposes to establish a Fisheries Liaison Committee  that will include Aboriginal, commercial and local fisheries representatives who will provide advice on means to reduce the routine effects of the terminal operations and vessel movements on marine fisheries and other marine users. The committee will also provide a forum for discussion of measures to be taken to mitigate  effects of hydrocarbon releases on other marine users.


While keeping out of supertankers is certain common sense navigation,  any potential sevre restrictions are likely only to increase the irritation and opposition to the project by Kitimat and coastal boaters, fishers and environmentalists.

Recreational halibut quota increased to 15 per cent but season may end in August


The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has increased the recreational halibut quota to 15 per cent.

A release issued this afternoon by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield says, “the Minister has instructed the Department to make an immediate correction in the allocation formula for the Pacific halibut fishery. Under the new formula, 85 per cent of the resource will be allocated to the commercial sector and 15 per cent to the recreational sector.”

However, this may not be good news for the recreational halibut industry. A news release from the Sports Fishing of Institute British Columbia, issued late Friday, says that regulations not mentioned in Ashfields’s Friday afternoon news release from DFO, says the recreational season will end August 15. DFO officials were not available for confirmation late Friday.

So if there is a shorter season, the quota increase may not mean that much to the recreational sector.

 The DFO news release goes on to say:

The 2012 Pacific halibut recreational fishing season will open March 1st. Recreational anglers with a tidal water licence will be able to catch one halibut per day with two in possession. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to work with recreational community representatives to identify monitoring and management measures that will provide greatest flexibility and season length while staying within their allocation.

The release from Robert Alcock, of the Sports Fishing Institute says:

Today’s changes to the recreational halibut fishery, will ensure that in 2012, recreational anglers will experience the shortest halibut fishing season in memory, said Sport Fishing Institute of BC President Robert Alcock. “Minister Ashfield closed the recreational halibut fishing on September 5th last year and caused extensive economic damage to the sport fishing industry”, said Alcock. “Today he served notice that recreational halibut fishing will end in the first week of August, which will wreak havoc in the sport fishing industry and which will not conserve a single fish.”

Ashfield announced that he will not accept the unanimous recommendation of Canada’s 300,000 recreational anglers and create a “fixed number’ fishery that would allow recreational anglers to enjoy a predictable fishery during periods of low halibut abundance. Instead, Ashfield simply tinkered with the flawed allocation system established in 2003 which will ensure that Canada’s 436 commercial halibut quota holders can continue to harvest 85% of Canada’s sustainable Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The TAC is established annually by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the amount of halibut that Canada and the US can harvest without endangering the long-term stability of halibut stocks.

Ashfield said in his news release that the decision will provide greater long-term certainty to the Pacific halibut fishery.

“Our government is making good on a commitment to provide greater long-term certainty in the Pacific halibut fishery for First Nations, commercial and recreational harvesters, and, most importantly encouraging jobs and economic growth in British Columbia.”

The release also says the controversial program where recreational fishers could buy additional quota from the commercial sector will continue, despite the fact a report from DFO to the International Pacific Halibut Commission indicated the program was a failure, with few people taking part.

While the recreational halibut fishery has lobbied for years to increase the quota from the old system of 12 per cent for the recreational sector and 88 per cent for the commercial sector, today’s decision comes after the IPHC lowered the overall quota for the Pacific Coast by 18 per cent. BC’s quota for 2012 is eight per cent lower, at 7.038 million pounds of halibut, a decrease  from the 2011 quota of 7.650 million pounds.

At the IPHC meetings in Anchorage, Alaska, last month, scientists expressed long term fears about the health of the halibut biomass, due to the large number of undersized females. At the same meeting scientists and fishers also said that the bycatch, especially from the pollock trawl fishery in the Gulf of Alaska was devastating the halibut “nursery.”

Before the news of the early closure of the season broke, Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan, recreating to the news of the quota increase said. “Hopefully some of the hard lobbying by the Kitimat group did paid off. I believe it did. Good going guys. Keep it up, still things to do.”

In the Institute’s news release Alcock went on to say:


During the 2011 election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Island residents that “Our government recognizes the importance of the halibut fishery in BC. The jobs and regional economic impact of the commercial, recreational and related tourism in BC are substantial. We remain committed to finding a solution to BC’s halibut allocation issue in advance of the 2012 season that strikes a fair balance between all sectors.”

“Recreational halibut fishers took the Prime Minister at his word,” said Alcock. “Sadly, today we have learned the hard way that the Prime Minister’s word is of little value, particularly to the hundreds of businesses, thousands of sport fishing industry employees and the hundred thousand Canadians who enjoy recreational halibut fishing.”

According to a recent study conducted for the BC Seafood Alliance (the commercial sector’s industry association), the recreational fishery in BC produces $642 million in annual sales, pays $150 million in wages and benefits, creates more than 7,800 jobs and 3,950 person-years of employment and contributes $240 million to the province’s Gross Domestic Product.


Editor’s Note:  Journalists are always wary of a government news release issued late on Friday afternoon. On the surface, the increase in the recreational quota was good news, something the guides and fishers had been fighting for years. Still, I was wondering why it came out on a Friday afternoon.  It took the Sports Fishing Institute of BC, who was able to find the regulations that they say indicate the season ends on August 15, that shows why the release came out  late on Friday.