A welded and sculpted metal tree created by two Grade 12 students in memory of Canada’s murdered and missing indigenous women and girls was unveiled in the lobby of the Kitimat Valley Institute on Friday, October 4, 2109, where it will be on permanent display.
The tree was created by Trinity Harry, 17, Ojibwa Nation, from Little Black River, Manitoba and Joseph Ginter, 16, Ojie-Cree, from Garden Hill, Manitoba, students at the Russell Vocational High School in Winnipeg. The project was supported by the Arx & Sparx Welding Camp Program and the CWBwelding Foundation with sponsorship from LNG Canada. The company is supporting welding camps for young people to introduce them to a career in the skilled trades.
The memorial tree features a red dress, part of the Red Dress Project created by artist Jamie Black to bring attention to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada by displaying red dress related art work across Canada. Most of the women, speakers and guests at the unveiling wore a red dress at the ceremony.
Harry and Ginter, along with their instructors, spent over 300 hours designing and fabricating the tree.
A plaque describes the tree as “dying.” Fallen leaves on the base represent the fallen indigenous women and girls. Future welding classes will add more leaves to honour more women.
The eagle represents the love for the missing.
The salmon represents the Haisla Nation on whose traditional territory the sculpture is displayed.
According to the RCMP, at least 1200 indigenous women have been murdered or have gone missing during the past 30 years. The plaque says the red dress was chosen because “So red is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us or have their voices heard through their family members and community.”
A crowd gathers at the Kitimat CN Station sometime in 1955. This picture may be of the station opening since the windows and trim are unpainted. (Walter Turkenburg/Kitimat Museum & Archives. ) See Note 1.
UPDATE: There will be a public meeting to discuss the future of the station in Kitimat on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at Riverlodge, in the Activity Room, at 7:30 pm.
March 12: This story has been updated to clarify that Kitimat Heritage has not yet discussed municipal, provincial or federal heritage status with CN. Also more information about CN telegraph communications has been added.
Kitimat Heritage and supporters in the community are campaigning to save the town’s old Canadian National Railway Station. Kitimat Heritage wants to preserve the station because it is symbolic of the earliest days of the townsite when Kitimat was first being built and celebrated as the 1950s “town of the future.”
District of Kitimat Council voted Monday February 25 to send a letter of support to CN and to take other appropriate measures to support an effort to save the old CN Railway Station in the Service Centre.
Retiring Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen (NDP Bulkley Valley) is also working at the federal level to get help to preserve the station. The provincial MLA Ellis Ross (Liberal Skeena) has promised he will work at the provincial level.
Local historian Walter Thorne and Executive Director of the Kitimat Museum & Archives Louise Avery presented a package to council that gave the history of the station and the current state of negotiations with CN. (Disclosure I am chair of the museum board but not directly involved in the campaign. The opinions in this article are strictly my own and may not reflect the views of Kitimat Heritage or the museum)
There have been two architectural assessments of the railway station. The first by John Goritsas on behalf of the Kitimat Museum & Archives in 1992 and this year on behalf of Kitimat Heritage by Prince Rupert architect Alora Griffin.
While the station overall is in “desperate condition” it appears from both assessments that the core of the station is, as far as can be determined, structurally sound.
The station, built in 1955, has been in poor repair for years. According to Kitimat Heritage CN has said it sees no other clear alternative than to demolish the station given its run-down nature, the potential liability issues, and the revenue potential of the land.
If CN did want to demolish the station , it can’t at the moment because it is protected by both municipal and provincial heritage status. So far the question of heritage status has not yet come up in the discussions.
District of Kitimat Council first passed a bylaw giving the station heritage status in September 1985.The municipal heritage status of the station is part of the official Kitimat Community Plan, adopted by council in 2008.
Only designated heritage railway stations that are still owned by a railway company under federal jurisdiction are subject to the nationwide Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act. Under the act no railway company may in any way alter, demolish, or transfer ownership of a designated heritage railway station without the authorization of the federal cabinet.
In the case of Kitimat, the Heritage Group has not yet officially asked CN to support designation.
CN officials, speaking to the heritage volunteers, have told them that the station is an “eyesore” and there is “revenue potential” from the station site as Kitimat gears up for the building of the LNG Canada plant and other projects including a proposed propane terminal.
Railway stations as brands
To understand what makes the Kitimat station unique, you have to know about the history of railway station construction in North America.
From the mid-nineteenth century until the First World War, a time when railways were the prime form of transportation, railway stations were designed to both attract paying passengers and to promote the railway brand. The railways hired the leading architects of the day to design metropolitan stations in grand style, often neo Classical like Toronto’s Union Station or Grand Central in New York or “Romanesque” such as Union Station in Nashville, Tennessee (now a Marriot Hotel) that resembles the style of Canada’s Parliament Buildings.
The same care in architectural design and construction was applied to even the smallest railway stations in those early years—although many were based on same designs from stop to stop.
When the Grand Trunk Pacific was building the line to Prince Rupert a century ago the GT built iconic smaller stations (designated by the Plan Number 100-152) along the route, with fourteen in the Smithers subdivision, including at Tyee, Kitwanga and Kwinitsa. (See Vanishing BC Grand Trunk Pacific Stations)
The latter station is now part of the Kwinitsa Station Railway Museum & Park in Prince Rupert.
The Prince Rupert station built in 1921 is an example of a utilitarian brick box that has federal protection.
The designation says the Prince Rupert Station is an example is “significant as a very early example of a public building in the Modern Classical style. Executed in brick and trimmed with Tyndall limestone, the station design combines traditional composition with simple, stripped-down classical detailing.”
The Smithers Station is considered more special it is an important and rare example of the custom-designed “special stations” built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) at several divisional points along its transcontinental line. This small group of specially designed stations represented a departure from the GTP’s overall policy of rigid standardization in depot design. (like the ones at Tyee, Kwinitsa and Kitwanga)
End of an Era
That era of great railway stations ended in 1929 with the Great Depression when commerce largely collapsed. Railways in North America had little money to spend on grand passenger stations. Then came the Second World War when the priority for the railways was supporting the war effort.
Railway historians say that after 1945 most spending for North American railways was to replace aging steam locomotives with new diesel locomotives. The railways also had to retire old rolling stock such as boxcars that had been kept in service during the war.
That meant even in the post war decade from 1945 to 1955 constructing new stations was not a priority. Those stations that were built, mostly in the United States, replaced buildings that were no longer usable. Most were “modern” brick boxes based on a utilitarian design that reached back to the 1920s or the newer “brutalist” buildings of mostly poured concrete.
Kitimat was a different case—there was a brand new branch line from Terrace. That meant Kitimat needed a railway station.
The architects who assessed the Kitimat station say it is an example of the modernist “form follows function” style of architecture popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright. The load bearing 2 x 6 trusses align the exterior walls which was one of Wright’s innovative ideas.
The station was designed by CN staff. The 1992 architect, John Goritos, said, “it was designed to suit the site and wasn’t a replica of any of other CN railway stations.”
The architects say that one reason the Kitimat Station was built of wood was not only that it had to be constructed quickly but the light weight was suited to the site which was on the Kitimat River flood plain filled in with sandy landfill.
Building the Kitimat branch line
As Alcan was planning and building Kitimat, the company signed transportation contracts with CN. That was the reason the branch line was built to the townsite, then past the sandhill to the aluminum smelter.
CN worked to build the new branch line for 38.5 miles crossing “difficult terrain of the area, including swamps, hard clay, rocks and watersheds.’ The route included three steel Pratt triangular truss bridges over the Lakelse, Wedeene, Little Wedeene Rivers and plus a number of smaller old fashioned traditional wooden trestles over creeks.
Canadian Transportation magazine reported in July 1952 that the branch line alone would cost $10 million 1952 dollars or $217,391.30 per mile.
Freight travel began as soon as the branch line was completed in December 1954. Temporary huts acted as the train station when passenger service began in January 1955 but were soon overwhelmed.
Former Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan who worked at the station recalls that once the Alcan plant became operational although most of the ingots were shipped out by sea, there were long trains outbound with car after car loaded with aluminum ingots.
The British magazine The Sphere (an equivalent of Life or Look) covered the story this way in a report on Feb. 19, 1955.
“In the far north-west of Canada new trains have just started to run along a new railway. The line starts in a small town called Terrace and its only forty-three miles long. But its importance is out of all proportion to its length for the new terminus is in Kitimat, the new wonder aluminum manufacturing of the Canadian Aluminum Company (sic).”
The anonymous reporter photographed what The Sphere said was the arrival of the first passenger train in Kitimat. The locomotive was Canadian National steam locomotive 2129, a 2-8-0 “Consolidation” that had been in service since 1911 with three railways, the Canadian Northern and the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific ( a CN subsidiary in the United States) before being transferred to CN. The loco hauled three passenger coaches and two boxcars on that initial run from Terrace. Note 2.
The 2-8-0 was a heavy-duty locomotive designed for hauling freight. All those outbound boxcars filled with ingots and, inbound, as the town was being built, boxcar after boxcar filled with lumber to build the houses and stores of the brand-new town.
The “milk-run” train also serviced Lakelse Lake (where there was a whistle stop in a clearing by the tracks, which I remember from a vacation at Lakesle in the summer of 1957) as well as “stations” (again really just clearings) on the timetable at Wedeene, Dubois, Lakelse and Thunderbird, to pick up loggers, surveyors, fishers and hunters. The trip from Lakelse to Kitimat would have taken one hour and thirty minutes if the train was running on schedule.
Once dedicated passenger service began, CN assigned another steam locomotive, a lighter 4-6-2 Pacific, Number 5000, built in 1913.
As CN was transitioning to diesel, it assigned its last remaining steam locomotives to more remote parts of Canada, like northwest BC. The Pacific, Number 5000, was retired in May 1958. The 2-8-0 Consolidation Number 2129 was scrapped in May 1960.
CN put the station construction out to tender in June 55. The building was completed by the Skeena Construction Company, based in Terrace, before the end of the year.
Train was the main mode of travel between Terrace and Kitimat from December 1954 until November 1957 when the highway to Terrace was opened.
Freight operations continued to use the depot for years after passenger traffic ended.
Like many branch line railway stations in North America, the Kitimat station combined passenger and some freight and express operations (most of the freight operations were carried on down the line to Kitimat Concrete Products at the sandhill and on to the Alcan smelter.)
There was soon a lot of traffic in those days people coming in from all over the world to find work. News reports at the time said the three-hour train journey from Kitimat to Terrace was so popular that there was often “standing room only” in the passenger cars.
The trains expanded from a single passenger car to three and later several as demand grew.
The station had a large interior large waiting area with washrooms, a “restroom” and later a small coffee and snack bar was added to the waiting room.
Along a corridor were the depot office and the combined telegraph office and what was called the “repeater room.” Off the corridor were also the station keeper room and conductors’ office. There was a typical bay window operator’s room in the waiting area that looked out onto the tracks.
On the freight side were the express office and the “on hand” (goods for pick up). The original plans had had one door in on the east wall and one door out by the tracks on the west side. Two doors on the north wall added later to meet demand.
On the blue prints for the station there is what is today a cryptic reference to the Telegraph-Repeater room which is the part of the building where we see the Canadian National Logo today. The role of the telegraph – more likely teletype by the 1950s—is obvious. The telegraph office operated for many years after passenger service ended.
It turns out the “repeater” was the first transmitter for CBC Radio in Kitimat. Canadian National Telegraphs operated most non-telephone communications in Canada along its railway lines.
CN had actually had some of the first radio stations in Canada, which were later taken over by the CBC when the Parliament created the public broadcaster.
So, in the Kitimat Station there was a LPRT or a Low Power Relay Transmitter. The “radio” signal came into Kitimat via a CN landline for broadcast. The LPRT was designed to be sited in a location were there was no other coverage or before an actual transmitter was built.
The railway company domination of telecommunications continued in 1967 when CN and CP telegraph services merged to form CNCP telecommunications. That company was later sold to Rogers when the railways got out of the telecommunications business they had founded in the previous century.
Some smaller locations across Canada still have CBC LPRTs where it is not economic to build a transmitter. Today the signal is downlinked from satellite.
CN and the station were also the conduit for secure government communications, including the RCMP. It also transmitted the Canadian Press wire service. Later BC Tel (now Telus) took over many of those functions.
End of passenger service
CN stopped passenger rail service to Kitimat in November 1957 almost as soon as then Highway 25 to Terrace was completed, although the station was still used to coordinate freight and express operations for a few years after that.
In the 1960s, passenger traffic on railways across North America plummeted as the era of the car and air travel became more the normal way to go.
CN used the station for storage in the 1970s and let it deteriorate and at one point it was vandalized. It was briefly owned by the District of Kitimat, but ownership has since reverted to CN.
Today’s train stations were most often just glass and steel, if there were stations at all. Many new stations are glass covered platforms with perhaps a small ticket office (and if passengers are lucky, washrooms).
The Kitimat CN Station is a unique snap shot of Canadian railway architecture and construction from the mid 50s that wasn’t duplicated.
CN has boarded up the building and says it is an “eyesore” and has told the heritage group that it is not structurally sound and should be moved from the site or be demolished.
The two architects reported that the station is a one story 3500 square foot structure supported by 2 x 6 fir trusses and 2 x 4 stud walls set in concrete slab. The roof trusses appear to be made of red cedar. As far as both architects could tell (access was somewhat limited) both the fir and reds cedar have survived the previous 62 years largely intact.
The roof was made of aluminum shingles, which were popular at the time as part of what was called “machine age allure” of the “space age” Streamline Moderne and “Googie” forms of architecture. The aluminum shingles, as well as the flashing were well suited for Kitimat because aluminum aged well, and snow would slide off an aluminum roof easier than traditional asphalt shingles.
The problem with the roof is that the sheathing between the red cedar and the aluminum has warped over the decades and that has displaced or heaved most of the aluminum shingles. The fascia will also have to be replaced.
The station hasn’t been heated or properly maintained for many years. That means apart from the structural walls, the rest mostly plywood and plasterboard has deteriorated markedly.
The greatest mistake—in retrospect—and the greatest challenge is the widespread use of asbestos in the building.
It appears that the CN architects and structural engineers in 1955 who designed the station wanted to add to that “machine age allure” by using the “modern” asbestos cladding. Before that almost all the smaller Grand Trunk and CN stations in western Canada had stucco on the exterior walls. In retrospect if CN had stuck with stucco, the station would—allowing for the poor maintenance– probably be in better shape. There are houses in Kitimat with stucco walls that have survived the elements for 50 to 60 years. If the walls were stucco, there would not be today’s cost of removing asbestos.
The most obvious use of asbestos is in the cladding or siding on the walls of the station which was a popular material up until the 1980s when the cancer risk from asbestos was realized. In the parts of the station which had linoleum floor—the passenger and office areas—it is likely that linoleum from that era contained asbestos. There is bare concrete floor for baggage express storage and heater rooms, so those are areas where there is presumably no asbestos in the flooring.
Asbestos was also wrapped around many of the building’s mechanical infrastructure and heating ducts. The soffit under the eaves may also contain asbestos.
There is so much asbestos that even if CN wanted to demolish the station the company couldn’t just bring in a backhoe or bulldozer and pull it apart as is done some other cases were there is no asbestos.
Under BC law, the asbestos would have to be safely removed by an asbestos qualified removal company before a demolition permit can be issued.
Renovating also requires a BC qualified asbestos abatement contractor.
In both cases, there has to be a hazardous material survey prior to any work commences. During the work—whether demolition or renovation—there has to be continuous hazardous material and air quality monitoring in the area. (Noting that the station is close to the Kitimat Hotel and service centre businesses)
It appears that CN hasn’t really bothered to undertake a detailed cost benefit analysis. The question is how much cost difference would there be in safely removing the asbestos prior to demolition and the cost of safely removing the asbestos prior to restoration?
Another question that has to be ironed out is who is responsible for the asbestos. CN owns the building and is currently responsible. If, as originally proposed, CN sold the building to the Kitimat Heritage for one dollar, the heritage group would then be responsible. If the heritage group gets to lease the building from CN, then CN, as the landlord, is likely still responsible for the upkeep of the building—a cost that CN apparently, at present, doesn’t want to undertake.
Worksafe BC must be notified of any project where asbestos is being removed (ws0303-pdf-en) PDF
Kitimat faces two choices with the station. To keep it on the current site or to move it elsewhere.
At present, according to the report by Kitimat Heritage presented to District of Kitimat Council, CN would like the building moved away from a potential revenue producing area along the right-of-way.
The Kitimat Heritage group wants the station to remain in place as the role as a train station is part of the Kitimat’s history. As the report says, “The building is not heritage without its provenance—the rail line.”
Both architect Alora Griffin and some building experts say it cannot be moved because the original design placed the load bearing trusses on the concrete pad foundation and therefore there is no floor that would support the station if it was to be moved.
That raises another question, which the far away CN executives have probably never considered because they appear to be clearly unfamiliar with Kitimat infrastructure is where would an intact station be moved to?
The current District limits for crossing the bridge call for a height restriction of four metres. The maximum clearance on the bridge is 4.2 metres or 13 feet nine inches in height. The maximum weight is 65,000 kilograms or 143,000 pounds. The station is just over nine metres or 29 feet high, which means the station would never fit onto the Haisla Bridge. So why move the station from its current location?
If a contractor found a way to move across the Haisla Bridge, however unlikely, by splitting up the building, costs of moving such a building are determined by the size of the building, what work has to be done to the building prior to moving, the distance moved and incidentals such as working with BC Hydro and telecom companies if overhead wires are in the way, cutting down trees if necessary, traffic control or traffic restrictions and other problems a moving company might run into.
So far, no company has been involved that specializes in moving large structures, including heritage structures.
The average minimum cost of moving a residential house in the United States can be $16 a square foot or more, so the minimum cost of moving the 3,500 square foot station—if the sound parts of the structure can actually be moved—would probably begin at least $60,000. Actual costs are usually much higher.
The bridge restrictions mean that the station would have to remain in the service centre anyway.
So why move it?
Another possibility that was raised by local contractors is dismantling the structure, numbering the salvageable parts such as trusses, beams and roof supports and reconstructing the building elsewhere. . One factor is how the trusses would be removed from the concrete base and rebuilt elsewhere in Kitimat.
That latter solution, however, is considered by many to be cost prohibitive. That evaluation would have to be made a qualified restoration architect. A check of available records shows that many–not all– of the CN stations that have been moved are in the prairie provinces where logistics are much easier.
Restoring the station
Kitimat Heritage is asking that the funds CN would have to spend in any case to demolish the building instead be put toward restoration.
The aim of the heritage group is to convert it into a community meeting space, perhaps with a restaurant and a small museum or other guide to Kitimat Heritage.
The heritage group wants a land lease from CN, but the company says a lease at present is impossible due to liability issues. CN has told the heritage group that if was to lease the building it would want $5,000 per year in rent, a $50,000 letter of credit and $10 million in liability insurance.
CN, as the present owner of the station, is, of course, currently solely responsible for any current liability issues that may occur.
CN has told the heritage group that it doesn’t entertain land sales within 100 feet of its right-of-way which is why the railway wants the station moved if it is sold (but as noted above there is no where for the station to go). That is why the heritage group wants a lease.
There are dozens of heritage railway stations across Canada that are still owned by CN and thus have federal protection. (see Note Three below for the list of CN Stations).
It is unlikely that preserving the Kitimat Station would have any adverse effect on CN’s bottom line. In 2018, CN had revenues of $14.321 billion and an operating income of $5.493 billion. The annual report says the railway carried $250 billion worth of goods in 2018 over 20,000 route miles in Canada and the United States. CN buildings were worth $1.186 billion in 2018, according to the report. The Kitimat Station is still on the CN books (and accounting for depreciation as reported in the annual report) and is a miniscule asset.
If an agreement is reached with CN, then the heritage group would have to embark on a fund-raising effort. The next step would be to hire an architect, either a local architect or one who specializes in heritage restoration.
The building would also have to be brought up to current seismic standards and meet the current British Columbia building code for public buildings.
To bring it up to code an architect would have to redesign building and coordinate with electrical, mechanical and structural engineers. Structural engineer would have to asses the condition of the trusses and other parts of the building for possible defects and possible needed upgrades.
To restore the building the customary procedure is to ask three local contractors for a realistic estimate of the cost (not a low bid bid). To be sure, the heritage group should also ask for a bid for a contractor who specializes in restoration. A restoration specialist would likely identify hidden costs or unexpected savings.
The heritage group wants to come to an agreement with CN before proceeding to ask the community for financial and volunteer support.
Although the discussion between the heritage group and CN have been fruitful so far, it appears from CN’s insistence that the station be moved that the company has not bothered to fully research either the heritage of the Kitimat Station nor the geography and geology of Kitimat.
If CN had done a thorough appraisal of the situation, they would know that it is unlikely that the station could cross the Haisla Bridge and thus should stay in situ.
The proposed Pacific Traverse Energy propane project would greatly add to the rail traffic in the area –and also add to CN’s revenue. There are two proposed sites for a rail staging yard, one about three kilometres north of the service centre on Crown Land and the second on Rio Tinto owned track close to the station location—which is probably what CN means when it says the site has “revenue potential.” The current estimate is that the project would require 60 tank cars each day to service an export terminal near Bish Cove.
So far, only pure rumour and speculation have said that the propane project is an impediment to saving the station.
At some point the company should be invited to join the discussion. Since Pacific Traverse Energy has said in its presentation to council that the company is going to embark on a “rigorous program of community engagement” this year and that it is committed to “economic, social, cultural and economical sustainability.” Emphasizing the word cultural means that the company could prove its commitment to the community of Kitimat by taking into consideration the future of the CN Station in any planning and decisions on land use or by helping to pay for station restoration of out a budget of $400 million while ensuring the safety of the station area if the project proceeds.
The cost of restoring the station is likely to be substantial and not only government but corporate funding as well as in kind contributions from local contractors and businesses will be needed to fully restore the station and make it operational as a community centre.
One factor is that the railway line from Terrace and the train station were built by CN on behalf of the then Aluminum Company of Canada, a company that promised CN back in the 50s at least a million dollars a year in revenue. (According to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator one million dollars in 1950 would be 11 million dollars in 2019—which may nor may not reflect how much Rio Tinto actually pays CN). It’s clear that both CN and Rio Tinto have profited from the rail line for the past almost 70 years and it’s time that some of those profits were applied to preserving Kitimat’s heritage.
Kitimat factory town or more?
Most railway heritage buildings and heritage railways around the world are maintained and operated by volunteers usually railway buffs, heritage activists and retired railway employees. There are few, if any, railway employees retired in Kitimat (although there may be some in Terrace or Prince Rupert). This could prove a problem in Kitimat where the same small group of volunteers are engaged in multiple efforts while others in the community seldom contribute. On the other hand, the restoration of the station and its operation as a community meeting place could bring out new volunteers.
The bigger picture that Kitimat has to decide on is what kind of town will this be in the future?
Back in the nineteenth century, when those iconic railway stations were built across North America, many mining, smelting and logging towns built equally impressive “opera houses” or other culture landmarks that are still preserved today.
While Kitimat never had a grand opera house, there is the station that marks the town’s early settler history.
The LNG Canada final investment decision approval and the growth of Asian markets for hydrocarbon energy (at least for the next few decades) and quality aluminum, means that the industrial base of Kitimat is assured.
Tourism has always been a low priority and culture has been an almost a zero priority.
So, is Kitimat going to be just an industrial town or is it Kitimat going to be more than that with cultural amenities for its residents and to be more than a tourist draw for mostly aging recreational fishers?
Whatever decision is made on the CN station will help decide the road to that future.
A small boy is seen in the photograph of the station wearing a “coonskin cap.” The Disney TV series Davy Crockett was broadcast from December 1954 to February 1955. Two follow up movies starring Fess Parker were Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, 1955, and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, 1956. Disney heavily marketed the coonskin cap to small boys, selling at one point 5,000 a day in the United States. Most were made of faux fur. Although Kitimat did not have television until years later, the cap likely dates the photo to the summer or fall of 1955, the height of the coonskin cap craze. Wikipedia.
You can see a Canadian Pacific 2-8-0 steam locomotive similar to the CN loco that made the first trip to Kitimat at the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland.
A list of Canadian National (or affiliate) heritage railway stations protected by the federal government. This list does not include stations owned by VIA Rail, Canadian Pacific or smaller Canadian Railways. There should be no reason that Kitimat’s station cannot join this list. (The George Little House station in Terrace was not originally a railway station but a heritage house that was moved to the trackside as a VIA station)
North Battleford Manitoba
Portage la Prairie
The Pas Ontario
Toronto Union Station
Sherbrooke New Brunswick
Sussex Nova Scotia
At the ceremonial puck drop at the charity hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks Alumni and the Kitimat Winterhawks Coaches, Saturday, April 28, 2018, Susannah Pierce Director External Relations for LNG Canada announced the company will donate a school bus equipped with three point seat belts for Mt. Elizabeth Secondary School’s sports teams.
At the ceremony, Pierce noted that the donation was in memory of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team where team members, coaches and support staff died in a horrific bus crash.
In a news release, LNG Canada said:
At an event in the Kitimat community on Saturday, April 28th, LNG Canada announced it has purchased a new 2018 Chevrolet Micro Bird G5 School Bus for Kitimat’s Mount Elizabeth Secondary School Sports Team’s use. The new bus can carry up to 24 student passengers plus driver. Importantly, it will be equipped with three-point seatbelts, increasing transportation safety significantly.
“The importance of seatbelts and road safety was brought home again by the deadly collision on April 6th in Saskatchewan. At LNG Canada, we wear seat belts because we know they save lives and our kids deserve the same level of protection,” says Susannah Pierce, Director External Relations for LNG Canada. “We hope to make a difference in the lives of the people that work and live around LNG Canada and investing in safety will always be our first priority.”
Mount Elizabeth Secondary Students will use the new bus to take full advantage of everything offered at school, including sporting events, collaboration with other schools for peer-to-peer activities, and field trips to explore and enjoy the Kitimat region.
“This donation could not have come at a better time. Our current bus was about to be retired and the prohibitive cost of a new bus was a major concern for us,” says Geraldine Lawlor, Principal Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School. “One of the best things about our new bus will be the three-point seatbelts to help ensure students are transported safely and efficiently to venues outside the school campus.”
The new school bus will be delivered in early September, to coincide with the start of the school year.
Principal Lawlor assures it will be put to good use. “We assure you that we will make good use of this bus and are very appreciative of LNG Canada’s support.”
The District of Kitimat is very pleased with the decision that the BC government issued today removing some of the barriers associated with the establishment of an LNG industry in BC. This will promote access for natural gas from BC to be exported as LNG to international markets. This would be a significant boost for the North West, the province, and Canada as a whole.
This is a positive step forward for the LNG industry in BC, and the District of Kitimat is looking forward to working with the BC Government, LNG Canada, First Nations groups, other stakeholders as well as the Federal Government to move toward a positive final investment decision in 2018.
Director of Economic Development
News release from BC Premier John Horgan on his government’s LNG policy
For Immediate Release
March 22, 2018
Office of the Premier
New framework for natural gas development puts focus on economic and climate targets
VICTORIA – As part of a new approach to natural gas development, the British Columbia government is overhauling the policy framework for future projects, while ensuring those projects adhere to B.C.’s climate targets, Premier John Horgan announced today.
“Our new approach welcomes investment that puts our province’s people and future first, and rejects the old ways of resource development at any cost,” Premier Horgan said. “Our obligation is to the people who call British Columbia home, and our job is to get the best deal for them and the generations that follow.”
Under the new approach, all projects should:
* Guarantee a fair return for B.C.’s natural resources.
* Guarantee jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians.
* Respect and make partners of First Nations.
* Protect B.C.’s air, land and water, including living up to the Province’s climate commitments.
These four conditions form the basis for government’s discussions with LNG Canada, which is moving toward a final investment decision on a project that, if approved, would be the largest private-sector investment in B.C. history. This project would see the construction of a natural gas pipeline from northeast B.C. to Kitimat, where a new terminal will process and ship LNG to Asian markets. It is expected to create up to 10,000 construction and up to 950 full time jobs in northern B.C.
“No premier or government can dismiss this kind of critical economic opportunity for the people of British Columbia,” Premier Horgan said. “But neither will we turn our back on our commitment to climate targets, or our path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”
At the centre of the discussions with LNG Canada is a revised fiscal framework that is designed to put natural gas development on a level playing field with other industrial sectors, accessing the same fiscal policies and working within the same overall B.C. framework to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.
The new framework, to which LNG Canada will be subject, provides:
* Relief from provincial sales tax (PST), in line with the policy for manufacturing sectors, subject to repayment in the form of an equivalent operational payment.
* New GHG emission standards under the Clean Growth Incentive Program, announced in Budget 2018.
* General industrial electricity rates consistent with other industrial users in B.C.
* Elimination of the LNG income tax that had required LNG-specific tax rates.
“The LNG Canada proposal has the potential to earn tens of billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs for British Columbians over the life of the project,” Premier Horgan said. “It’s a private-sector investment that could benefit our province for decades to come, but not at any price – we need to make sure the values British Columbians believe in come first.”
The Premier said his government will also expect the LNG Canada project to fit within the goals of the Province’s climate-change plan and, specifically, its legislated GHG reduction targets.
“We committed, during the election campaign, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2007 levels by 2030, and by 80% by 2050. That remains our goal,” Premier Horgan said.
“We cannot achieve the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and do our part in protecting the global environment without a significant shift to a low carbon economy. The work for all of us – in government, business, labour and beyond – is only just beginning. And all resource development proposals must be considered within the context of our global commitment to protecting our air, land and water.”
With B.C.’s new fiscal framework provided to LNG Canada this week, it is anticipated the company will make a final investment decision sometime before the end of this year.
Climate action in British Columbia
On April 1, 2018, the carbon tax will increase by $5 a tonne annually, until 2022.
Increasing the carbon tax meets the requirements set out by the federal government’s pan-Canadian climate framework. Rebates will go to a majority of British Columbians.
However, increasing the carbon tax alone will not enable B.C. to meet its long-term greenhouse gas-reduction goals of 40% below 2007 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050. Significant new climate-action initiatives will be required in order for B.C. to meet these 2050 legislated targets, while encouraging strong economic growth. To ensure an interim target, new legislated targets for 2030 will be introduced later this year. Specific targets for each of the industrial, transportation and building sectors will also be established.
Meeting climate targets will not be easy and will require a concerted effort across all sectors to make the transition to a low-carbon economy. The addition of emissions from LNG will increase this challenge but government is committed to taking the steps necessary to achieve B.C.’s climate goals.
* A portion of the carbon tax revenue, paid by large industry, will fund a rebate program to incent the use of the greenest technology available in the industrial sector, including the natural gas sector, to reduce emissions and encourage jobs and economic growth. Some of the revenue will also go into a technology fund, to help spur new, clean technologies in all sectors, to make sure they fit within B.C.’s climate plan.
* The Climate Solutions Clean Growth Advisory Council (CSCG), established in October 2017, is supporting government’s goal of reducing carbon pollution, preparing for the impacts of climate change and growing a sustainable economy. The CSCG is comprised of community leaders from across British Columbia, including representatives from First Nations, local government, industry, environmental organizations, academia and labour.
* The CSCG is providing advice on actions and policies to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions, while taking advantage of opportunities for sustainable economic development and job creation.
* Immediate priorities for the CSCG include achieving emissions reductions in the transportation sector, developing pathways to clean economic growth, as well as policies to support the competitiveness of B.C.’s emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries.
* Government is working to develop a framework for fugitive emissions that match the federal government’s target of a 45% reduction by 2025.
* Government is examining every opportunity to reduce emissions from slash burning by providing alternative economic usage for slash where available.
* Government has initiated a scientific review of hydraulic fracturing aimed at ensuring that industry in B.C. operates according to the highest-possible standards.
British Columbia establishes new framework for natural gas development
Natural gas has a key role to play to provide clean, reliable, affordable and less-carbon-intensive options to global energy markets.
British Columbia has a vast supply of low carbon-intensive natural gas resources in places like the Montney Basin, and has been developing them to support economic growth and job creation at home for decades. B.C. natural gas is an important transition fuel that can help B.C. move to a lower-carbon economy.
While B.C. has been exporting natural gas to U.S. markets for decades, it has an opportunity to export the same fuel to other jurisdictions. To that end, government will introduce a fiscal framework that will provide fair returns to both British Columbians and investors, as well as a climate strategy that will allow B.C. to meet its legislated climate targets.
To ensure British Columbia does it better than anybody else in the world, the provincial government has four key conditions to ensure British Columbians benefit from any proposed LNG development. They are:
* Guarantee a fair return for B.C.’s natural resources.
* Guarantee jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians.
* Respect and make partners of First Nations.
* Protect B.C.’s air, land and water, including living up to the Province’s climate commitments.
Emerging LNG Proposals
Despite the cancellation of Pacific Northwest LNG, Aurora and Woodside project proposals, several other LNG proponents have expressed renewed interest in developing projects in BC.
LNG Canada’s proposed Kitimat project, should it proceed, represents a very significant economic opportunity for British Columbia – a project that involves one of the largest private sector developments in B.C. history.
Shell and its joint-venture partners have worked constructively to satisfy the provincial government’s conditions for LNG, and British Columbia expects LNG Canada will continue to do so moving forward.
LNG Canada is also working to achieve global leadership in low-emissions technology and operations.
Chevron and its partners have expressed continued interest in developing its project in northern B.C. and is focusing on the use of new low-emissions liquefaction technology.
These come as the Province is completing a climate-action strategy in place that meets the Province’s greenhouse gas-reduction targets – to reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2007 levels by 2030, and by 80% by 2050.
The B.C. government has developed a new framework aimed at ensuring British Columbians receive a good return for their natural gas resource and proponents receive a reasonable return on investment.
As part of this work, British Columbia and LNG Canada jointly conducted a financial analysis of the LNG Canada project. This analysis corroborated evidence and information from internationally recognized LNG analysts that B.C. has a competitiveness issue and formed the basis of a mutual understanding upon which the Province is prepared to commit measures that will increase the competiveness of British Columbia’s LNG industry.
These measures provide a framework for other industries in British Columbia in similar circumstances – they are not exclusive to the LNG industry or LNG Canada.
As it pertains to LNG Canada, the measures detailed below will only be implemented if the proponents are able to conclusively decide on or before Nov. 30, 2018, to proceed with the construction of the LNG facility and associated investments. These measures below would apply to the entire LNG sector.
1. New Operating Performance Payments
Under current legislation, proponents constructing significant manufacturing facilities would receive a PST exemption on input costs, whereas those proposing to construct LNG facilities would not.
Under the new framework, The B.C. government will exempt LNG Canada from the provincial sales tax (PST), on the construction of their initial proposed facility. This will be conditional on LNG Canada entering into a separate agreement with the province whereby LNG Canada will pay annual operating performance payments over 20 years, a total amount equivalent to what LNG Canada would have otherwise paid in PST during the initial facility construction period.
This framework will be available to all proponents constructing significant manufacturing facilities in the province.Clean Growth Incentive Program
2. The provincial government recognizes that energy-intensive trade-exposed industries, including the natural gas sector, face unfair competition when competing globally with jurisdictions that do not impose carbon taxes. Proponents who make a final investment decision to proceed will be subject to the new Clean Growth Incentive Program, announced by the provincial government in Budget 2018. A benchmark for world-leading clean LNG production will be established as part of this program, replacing existing requirements under the current Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act.
3. Industrial Electricity Rates
Proponents who make a positive final investment decision will receive the general industrial electricity rate charged by BC Hydro. This is the same rate paid by other industrial users in British Columbia.
4. Removal of LNG Income Tax
The existing LNG income tax is not the most efficient and effective tool for generating returns to British Columbia. It is cumbersome to administer and has led to uncertainties. Government intends to introduce legislation to repeal this tax and instead government will utilize a number other tax and royalty measures under its new fiscal framework, to ensure that British Columbia gets a fair return for its natural gas resource.
New Approach to LNG
As part of establishing a new fiscal framework, the provincial government will take steps to improve the transparency and consistency with which it assesses industrial development opportunities. To that end, government intends to introduce legislation to repeal the Project Development Agreement Act, passed by the previous government, to tie the hands of future governments with respect to the rules governing LNG projects. These measures effectively indemnified proponents against changes. Government will also review and potentially cancel or repeal other LNG measures established by the previous government.
THE RIVERBANK PAPERS: After the flash flood on September 11, 2017, Northwest Coast Energy News filed Freedom of Information/Access to Information requests with a number of provincial and federal agencies who have jurisdiction over the Kitimat river and riverbank camping. The first response to the FOI request is from the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development.
A preliminary assessment by the British Columbia Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development indicates that the District of Kitimat can regulate access to camping on the Kitimat River bank because although the shoreline is on Crown Land, the camping area is within the boundaries of the District.
One of the possible policies that the District staff is considering is allowing only “day access” to the riverbank.
An email on October 11, from Liz Williamson, a senior policy analyst in the ministry’s Land Tenure Branch to Gwen Sewell, the District’s Director of Planning and Community Development, reads:
Permission does not apply to Crown Land within a municipality—as a result even in the absence of zoning/bylaws, any camping that does occur is technically in non-compliance with the permission and therefore could be subject to enforcement action under the Land Act.
Williamson notes that the province likely will have to be involved.
Ultimately that does rely on provincial resources and it looks like DOK would want a greater role in the use and ability to locally enforce the use as you have mentioned zoning and associated bylaws would likely be a course of action you could consider.
Williamson went on to write:
I’m waiting to hear back from one of my more experienced colleagues but I am not aware of any specific limitation to DOK creating bylaws to regulate public recreational use of vacant Provincial land within the municipal boundaries, so long as it doesn’t conflict with a government interest.
She added that the laws and regulations are complex and advised the District to get legal advice. Then she added the District should have “upfront discussions with appropriate provincial authority to ensure that the bylaws do not conflict with existing policy/legislation or other agency interests.”
Right after the flash flood both Sewell and District of Kitimat Chief Administrative Officer, Warren Waycheshen, exchanged emails with officials of both the Ministry of Lands and Forests and the Ministry of the Environment asking first if the province would have any objections to a proposed plan to put gates on municipal land to limit access to the riverbank. Council later put the gate plan on hold.
The emails quoted provincial land use permission policy that says
“Crown permission to use land requires the activity must abide by and comply with all applicable, regulations and bylaws.
Before any person may rely on the Permission they must ensure that the activity is taking place on unencumbered Crown land. The Crown land must not be within
A Protected Area includes Ecological Reserves, Parks and Conservancies
In his email to Cam Bentley, Resource Manager for the Skeena Lands district, Waycheshen asked if the province was interested in some form of joint administration of the riverbank and if the ministry was interested in joining the working group.
Sewell sent a similar email to Williamson noting,
Camping has been occupying the banks of the Kitimat River—opposite a municipal campground called Radley Park—for decades….This had been a somewhat divisive local issue (it’s no cost and traditional use, grey water, residual garbage, human waste, blocking river access for day users etc. and there is a new willingness to consider regulation or prohibition of camping following a flash flood that required a dangerous multi-force rescue effort to save 14 campers and resulted in significant property loss (RVs, vehicles and camping equipment). As camping is “unregulated” the first responders had no idea how many people were in danger or where to look for campers.
Sewell went on to say:
Given…municipal authority to regulate land use by zoning, I believe Kitimat Council may use their zoning power to limit all or selected land along the Kitimat River to “day use only.” I am far from certain this will be the course of action Council will choose to pursue. For now, we only want to identify possibilities.
Williamson replied to Sewell saying that it was good there was no loss of life in the flood. She noted the Keremeos had been going through a similar situation but that village’s problem was that, unlike the District of Kitimat, the camping was outside the municipal boundaries of the village.
KEEP THE RIVERBANK PAPERS INVESTIGATION GOING.
These days filing Freedom of Information and Access to Information requests is much more expensive than it was in the past. It is part of obstruction of freedom of information by all levels of government. One agency wants $900 for their files on the Kitimat River camping issue. That is currently under appeal. Donations (see right hand column) will help the residents of Kitimat know more about what is happening on the camping issue.
District of Kitimat Council voted Monday five to two to create a “working group” of “concerned citizens and community groups” to consider the future of riverbank camping along the Kitimat river. The working group will consider issues such as access to the river, pollution and how to control extended camping along the river.
That vote came after council split five to two again to defeat a motion by Councillor Mary Murphy to stop riverside camping altogether.
A proposal from District staff to put access gates at three locations, the Giant Spruce Road, the Sewage Plant and the Pump House was tabled for the time being. However, the councilors and staff marked the pump house gate as a priority for study by the engineering staff due to concerns that “the risk of fuel, oil and other contaminants (i.e. Illegal dumping ) occurring. This is the source water area for the city’s water supply, reducing access reduces contamination risks.” Staff said that unlike other portions of the riverbank, the District does “have authority under drinking water protection act to protect this area.”
Council also voted to close Hirsh Creek park immediately because the roads at the camping area were washed out by the flood last week.
Councillors noted that many people still go to Hirsch Creek after the gates are closed at the end of the season to walk dogs or hike. This results in a parking jam at the front of the gate and on busy times, cars park on Highway 37 which could endanger pedestrians.
District staff will study moving the park gate down further to a point that the road narrows near the first campsite to allow safe access for dog walkers and hikers.
The main problem facing the District of Kitimat is that most popular sites along the riverbank for campers are on provincially owned Crown land. In 2014, the former BC Liberal government passed a regulation that says people can camp on Crown land for up to 14 days. As some councillors pointed out this restriction regularly abused by some campers who stay on the riverbank for weeks, some apparently camping from Victoria Day to Labour Day.
During the debate it was pointed out that often those camp on the riverbank like to “claim” a camping/fishing spot and try to prevent others from using it. “I know of a couple of fistfights,” Murphy told Council.
As Councillor Rob Goffinet pointed out, whether or not the District could place gates on municipal land to stop access to provincial Crown land would require a legal opinion.
Murphy told Council that she had received emails, blaming Kitimat for “almost drowning” some of the campers. She said that her views may be unpopular among some residents, but added, “I don’t care if I’m unpopular, I want to keep people safe.”
Councillor Larry Walker, who pointed out that he likes of fish along the river, who supported Murphy’s motion told his colleagues to get their act together and “do something about the riverbank.” He later proposed that if council does nothing, perhaps Kitimat should hold a referendum on the future use of the river bank.
The majority on Council were more cautious, while acknowledging problems. They pointed out that the many of the campers both on the east bank and on the west bank at Radley Park patronize local businesses during the summer months.
While there was wide discussion on social media before the council meeting, only three people showed up to give their opinions, mostly concerned about permitting access to the river for people with mobility issues or small children.
There were many comments and questions about how other areas police provincial Crown Land, with some saying that some places restrict access to only a couple of days. However, no one either on Council or staff had any idea of what exactly other locations are doing, if anything.
There were no details of how the working group would operate and who would participate. During the debate it was pointed out that as well as the province, participants would have to include Rio Tinto, LNG Canada and DFO. As well, Council did not set a deadline for the working group to report back.
As Murphy pointed out back in 2014, Fisheries and Oceans refused to attend a Council meeting or make a public presentations on its views of the river bank situation. (DFO snubs District of Kitimat Council for a second time ) while offering to meet with staff “they will continue to meet at an operational level to provide information on DFO’s regulatory role.” That, of course came during the Stephen Harper administration which severely restricted any public participation by the civil service on environmental issues. Whether the Justin Trudeau government has changed that policy remains to be seen.
Was the rain storm an anomoly?
During the debate, Mayor Phil Germuth, pointed to the sudden onslaught of rain during Sunday and Monday September 10 and 11 and called it “an anomaly” which means that Kitimat should not overreact to the storm.
Climate science has repeatedly shown that global warming is increasing the odds of extreme precipitation and storm surge flooding. Refusing to acknowledge this impairs our ability to prepare for future extreme weather and endangers American lives and property.
Scientists can now even evaluate how much climate change has increased the odds of individual extreme events, including rainfall and flooding.
As the 2015 American Meteorological Society report quoted by The Times indicates, those unpredictable and extreme events don’t just include floods but the widespread forest fires in Alaska in 2014 and we all know how bad the fire season has been in British Columbia this year.
As Noah Diffenbaugh of Standford University pointed out in The Times
Being smart about managing exposure and vulnerability is critical to reducing risks. But doing so requires acknowledging that global warming is happening, that humans are the primary cause and that the odds of catastrophes like Hurricane Harvey are increasing.
The District of Kitimat has issued a map clarifying just who owns the banks of the Kitimat River, a subject that has been debated for years, as campers have come and gone as they please.
The map issued by the District staff shows that the District of Kitimat has jurisdiction over much of the land on the east side of the river while Rio Tinto owns much of the western bank–but also does own some of the eastern bank in the lower levels.
District staff are recommending that gates be installed in three areas along the eastern bank on municipally owned land, at the Giant Spruce Road, at the Pump House and at the Sewage plant. That could cut off vehicular traffic while still allowing access for pedestrians and those who wish to fish on the river bank by getting access on foot.
The proposed locations of the gates are marked in red on the map.
You’ll find a larger version of the map, and staffs’ recommendations to District Council in the report.
Both the RCMP and Kitimat Fire and Rescue are warning residents to stay away from the Kitimat River until the high water recedes. As well there are likely new hazards from a possible change in the river’s path due to the high water and as well as from debris in Douglas Channel.
Both detachment commander Staff Sergeant James McLaren and Fire Chief Trent Bossance made a special presentation to District of Kitimat Council Monday night to bring council up to date on the events that began early Monday morning.
The riverbanks are still hazardous, McLaren told Council and he urged that everyone stay away for at least the next two days. Anyone going out to fish in the Kitimat Arm of Douglas Channel, may also face hazards from snags, logs and debris such as floating propane cans. Bossance told Council in reply to a question from Councillor Larry Walker.
As well, Bossance told Council that the sudden deluge that began on Sunday afternoon is “not typical at all like the regular October flooding” that may be seen on the river.
Bossance warned that due to the volume and speed of the water it is likely that some parts of the river bed and river course have changed, and that the sandbars and snag areas that people may be familiar with may have shifted.
The effects of the flood are being monitored by RCMP, Fire and Rescue, Conservation officers, Fisheries and Oceans and provincial environmental officials.
Bossance said that the consensus of those officials is that the flood situation is unique in the history of Kitimat. Environment Canada issued a severe rainfall warning at noon on Sunday.
Bossance told Council that people who were able to leave the riverbank said that they were able to walk out at about one a.m. By 2:30 am, the river had risen so rapidly—about four metres—that by then people were trapped and calling 911 for help. McLaren said the RCMP immediately asked for the assistance of Kitimat Search and Rescue, who then requested assistance from Terrace Swift Water Rescue. Those units rescued twelve people from the riverbank.
A helicopter was called in and rescued two people. The helicopter then made a sweep of the river bank but found no one else in danger.
McLaren told Council that as of 7 pm Monday no one had been reported missing or overdue.
The number of flooded vehicles or vehicles swept into the river is not certain, McLaren said, but the number is estimated between twelve and fourteen ranging from large recreational vehicles to cars. A preliminary assessment by ICBC indicates that the damage or loss of vehicles will be covered but that will have to be confirmed by the vehicle owners.
Bossance said that high tide was not that much of a factor since it occurred at 5:30 am. Most of the high water was runoff from the upper Kitimat River.
Of the fourteen people rescued two were Kitimat residents, the rest from out of town. Emergency social services has assisted those needed to find housing.
The RCMP will continue increased patrols in the river area until the danger has passed.
Heavy rain and strong winds combined with high tide overnight Sunday, September 11 flooded out fishers and campers along the Kitimat River.
The RCMP say twelve people were rescued via boat and two by helicopter, mostly along the Big Spruce bank. The RCMP say all are currently accounted for, although police say they will have to check the riverbanks once the water levels drop in about 48 hours.
Kitimat Search and Rescue, Kitimat Fire and Rescue, RCMP and Terrace Swift Water Rescue participated in the operation.
The RCMP is asking the public to contact them about concerns about people who may be overdue or possibly missing at 205-632-7111.
It is estimated that the river quickly rose about four metres. The rising water made it impossible for some people to retreat to the Dyke Road.
The first calls for help came to RCMP about 2 am Monday, with more around 3:30 am and the rescue began at first light about five hours later.
Environment Canada issued a heavy rainfall warning at noon on Sunday, calling for at least 66 millimetres of rain. It appears that some of the campers were either not aware of the warning or thought they could ride out the storm.
Perhaps as many as a dozen recreational vehicles were flooded or swept into the river, along with a pickup truck and a small car.
Some of those who were evacuated from the riverbanks were sheltered at the Riverlodge Recreation Centre.
Environmental and fisheries officials will be checking for any pollution in the river once conditions are safe.
The District of Kitimat is warning people to stay away from the riverbanks since the swift water can quickly destablize the soil along the river. The District has closed Radley Park and Hirsh Creek parks for the remainder of the season. The Dyke Road and Big Spruce roads are also closed.
UPDATED with comments from District of Kitimat, Terrace and the Gitga’at Nation
A preliminary seismic hazard assessment by Natural Resources Canada has identified possible earthquake scenarios for the Douglas Channel near Hartley Bay, Terrace and Bella Bella.
The same studies indicate that while Kitimat may not be directly in a seismic zone prolonged earthquakes cause some damage in Kitimat depending on the earthquake and the condition of the soil in certain parts of the District. One model scenario says that in the event of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, given certain soil conditions, there might actually be more damage in Kitimat than on the islands.
Susceptibility to landslides
That assessment, part of the overall the study by the Geological Survey of Canada indicates that the north coast of British Columbia from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella is likely face to “seismically induced ground failure”– mostly landslides.
Overall, the report says that on a scale of 1 to 6 (6 representing the highest
susceptibility), the majority of the west coast of BC “exhibits landslide susceptibility values of 5 to 6, which is significantly higher than the rest of Canada.”
In British Columbia the landslides are most likely to be triggered by delayed melting of the annual snow pack, heavy rains, bank erosion and site loading and caused long-lasting damning of the river causing “damage to pipelines, rail, and forestry, as well as fish habitats.”
So far no recent landslides along the northern British Columbia coast are known to be caused by earthquakes, the reports say “the existence of numerous landslides strengthens the likelihood of seismically induced ground failures… due to the high levels of seismicity….it is expected that the increased likelihood of strong ground shaking (with long durations) will increase the landslide susceptibility.”
It was only after the 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake and with what the Geological Survey of Canada calls “a growing number of on-going and planned infrastructure projects, BC’s north coast is emerging as a region of high strategic importance to Canada’s economy,” that studies began in area where “there has been minimal research to understand earthquake hazards.”
Now that studies have begun the Geological Survey has given the region its own new acronym BCNC (BC North Coast). Haida Gwaii is not part of BCNC, although earthquakes on those islands would likely impact the coast.
The Geological Survey says that historically “the BCNC has been seismically quiescent.” As a result “seismic monitoring and research related to the BCNC has been minimal.” That meant while larger earthquakes were “felt and recorded,” the configuration of the Canadian National Seismograph Network did not allow earthquakes less than approximately magnitude 2.1 to be monitored in northern BC.
Now the Geological Survey is looking at “long-term, continuous monitoring of micro seismicity, combined with geodetic and paleo seismic techniques” that could be used to study at the possibility of large earthquakes, including a possible fault on the lower Douglas Channel.
Since the studies began in August 2014, the Geological Survey identified 145 earthquakes within the study area, many too small to be felt since they are less than magnitude 2.0. Those earthquakes, however, were picked up by the new and improved instrumentation used by the earthquake monitors.
The two reports one on “seismic hazards” and the second on “geohazards” says five “temporary seismonitors” (download reports from links below) were installed within the BCNC while some older stations were upgraded, saying, “It is expected that these new stations will be aid in locating small earthquakes” that were not previously detected by the existing network. The Geological Survey also installed ground movement monitoring GPS units along the coast.
The use of the term “temporary” raises the question about how much ongoing monitoring is planned.
The study also notes that the current data is not included in the seismic standards in the current National Building Code of Canada, which in turn is based on the Natural Resources Canada Seismic Hazard Map. That may mean that municipalities in the BC North Coast region, in the future, as the seismic studies continue, may have to consider updating building codes, especially in areas of “softer soils” as opposed to harder rock.
“Fault-like structure” on Douglas Channel
Over the years some small earthquakes have also been recorded on what the Geological Survey calls the “recently mapped fault-like structure” on Douglas Channel which was discovered in 2012. The survey is still calling it “fault-like” because it has not yet been confirmed as an active fault. A new map in the study shows that the “fault” runs from the southern tip of Gribbell Island, down the centre of Whale Channel east of Gil Island and then along the western coast of Princess Royal Island.
The study identified “a small, unfelt swarm of earthquakes between magnitude 1.7 and 2.0 between September 13 and 14, 2010 near Gil Island.”
There is also the previously identified ancient Grenville Channel Fault (ancient and believed inactive because it dates from the Cretaceous, the age of the dinosaurs) that runs from along Grenville Channel from Porcher Island in the north to Klemtu in the south which has experienced small earthquakes.
The report says geological studies of the Douglas Channel “fault-like structure” are a priority because, “Should this structure be determined to be an active fault, it would pose significant risk of earthquake-triggered landslides (and subsequent tsunami) from the susceptible Douglas Channel hill slopes.”
Clay and sand in Kitimat
The report also calls for more studies the local geology and soil conditions in the Kitimat Valley. A study back in 1984 by John Clague of Simon Fraser University showed that as the glaciers retreated during the last Ice Age there were “periods of stagnation” resulting in sediments that are thicker than other regions of British Columbia, Clague reported that in parts of Kitimat, the glacial moraine is hundreds of metres thick.
After the glaciers were gone, the sea levels rose and glaciomarine sediments (clay, silt up to 60 metres thick) were deposited until the sea level fell to present-day levels. The report says that as these marine deposits were exposed to fresh water, salts were leached out resulting in saturated, porous sediments, including clay, which are prone to failure. Boreholes in the Kitimat area show that the clay and sediments above the bedrock can range from 17 metres to 106 metres.
The report notes the presence of clay soils “can amplify ground shaking and secondary effects” as happened in November 1988 when there was an earthquake in the Saguenay region of Quebec.
Originally reported as a 6.2 magnitude but later downgraded to 5.9, on Nov. 25, 1988, the major earthquake was centered near the Quebec cities of Chicoutimi and Jonquière, with aftershocks felt as far away as Toronto, Halifax and Boston. The quake lasted for two minutes, catching thousands of people off guard and leaving buildings damaged and power out for hundreds of thousands of Quebecers.
The report says the most significant event within the BC North Coast study region (which as mentioned doesn’t include Haida Gwaii) was a magnitude 4.9 earthquake approximately 20 kilometers southwest of Terrace on November 5, 1973, which was felt as far as 120 kilometers away, with some minor damage (broken windows and cracked plaster) reported near the epicentre. The main shock at Terrace was preceded by a magnitude 2.5 foreshock four hours before, and followed by a felt magnitude 3.7 aftershock the next day.
Bella Bella at risk
Another area most at risk, according to the report, is southern part of the BC North Coast zone, near Bella Bella, which is close to the northern section Cascadia Subduction Zone a “1,000 kilometre long dipping fault that stretches from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino California” which one day will cause a major earthquake along the fault.
The report says that a magnitude 9.0 or higher earthquake in the northern Cascadia Subduction zone close to Bella Bella would be similar to the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska.
For the northern part of the BC North Coast region, hazards could come from either a major earthquake off Haida Gwaii or a similar earthquake in south-eastern Alaska.
The greatest hazard would come from “long period” earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.75 with an epicentre between 300 and 350 kilometers away where the shaking lasts longer than one second.
The Geological Survey modeled three possible scenarios for major earthquakes in the BC North Coast Region.
Model #1. A magnitude 8.0 Earthquake at Haida Gwaii
The model looked at a “plausible maximum predicted” magnitude 8.0 thrust fault earthquake off the west coast of Haida Gwaii which would be twice as strong in the fault area as the 7.8 quake on October 28, 2012 (Remember Magnitudes are based on a logarithmic scale. That means for each whole number higher, the amplitude of the ground motion recorded by a seismograph goes up ten times so magnitude 8 earthquake would result in ten times the ground shaking as a magnitude 7 earthquake)
For a short period earthquake, the report estimates that there would be minimal damage on Haida Gwaii similar to the damage from the 2012 earthquake with little or no damage on the BC North Coast.
A long duration, long period earthquake that lasted longer than one second and up to three seconds or longer “may effect taller structures and trigger ground failure (that is liquefaction and lateral shaking).” Kitimat would feel that earthquake with the worst shaking in parts of the District with what the report calls “sensitive soils.” Coastal islands would feel double the amount of shaking as would occur in Kitimat.
Model #2. A magnitude 7.2 Earthquake in Douglas Channel
The second model looked at an earthquake in Douglas Channel based on the “fault like structure” if a slip strike rupture occurred along the entire 60 kilometers of the so far unconfirmed fault, resulting in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. There would be very strong shaking within 20 kilometers radius of the epicentre, with moderate to heavy damage” in the relatively uninhabited islands, major shaking in Hartley Bay, resulting in very strong to strong damage at Hartley Bay and strong to moderate damage in Kitimat.
That earthquake, however, would be felt across the entire province of British Columbia. The report notes:
The expected effects and impacts of such an earthquake would mimic those of the 1946 magnitude 7.3 Vancouver Island earthquake, which occurred slightly west of Courtney and Campbell River. Shaking due to the 1946 earthquake was felt as far as Prince Rupert, BC to the north and Portland, Oregon to the south. In addition to knocking down 75 per cent of the chimneys in the local area, much of the earthquake-related damage was due to landslides, slumping and liquefaction
Model #3 A magnitude 6.3 Earthquake near Terrace
On May 11, 1973, a magnitude 4.7 shallow earthquake took place about 20 kilometers south west of Terrace, on the south side of the Skeena roughly across from the Shames mountain area. The earthquake was felt up to 120 kilometers away. The report says “The event has not been associated with any geologic features in the area and little is known about its rupture process.” The model estimated the results of a larger earthquake 6.3 magnitude in the same area. The model showed there would be strong to very strong shaking in Terrace, light to moderate shaking in Kitimat and light damage elsewhere in the BC North Coast. Most of the damage would be concentrated in a 20 kilometer zone around the epicentre.
The cause of the two failures is still unknown but the report says “their proximity to a nearby unmapped fault-like structure suggests that the slides could have been triggered by strong ground shaking from rupture along this structure.”
Another factor was the two well-known landslides occurred in the 1970’s in the Kitimat Arm which generated tsunamis but fortunately they occurred at low tide which decreased the impact. On October 17, 1974 a submarine slide generated a 2.8 metre tsunami. The following year on April 27, 1975, a slope failure on the northeast side of Kitimat Arm (which overlapped the 1974 failure area) displaced an estimated upper limit of 26,000,000 cubic metres of material.
“Watermark observations in Kitamaat Village estimated that the tsunami generated by this slide was up to 8.2 metres high.” The report says that while the trigger of the first event is unknown; the latter event coincided with nearby construction at that time. Modelling of the 1975 slide estimates that given the right conditions the generated tsunami waves could have been as high as 11 metres.
The report also notes that numerous landslides have also been mapped by the BC Department of Forestry in an attempt to improve safety measures for forestry workers.
The report says “The culmination of these studies brings awareness to the significant natural hazards present in the fragile coastal environment of the Coast Ranges.”
Another factor is the geology of the BC coast. The granitic mountains have rugged, steep slopes dissected by an intricate fjord system and dotted with islands of lower elevation. At lower elevations the land is covered by wet, coastal hemlock forests, which could be vulnerable to ground failures whereas higher elevations are characterized by barren rock or mountain hemlock subalpine.
The District of Kitimat said it has “not directly studied these issues but we are aware of potential hazards.” The development department has been advised of potential issues and site concerns.
A spokesperson for Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc told Northwest Coast Energy News in an e-mail. “I have reviewed it and distributed it to the relevant department heads. We are aware that historically Terrace has been at risk for experiencing seismic activity due to its location.”
The District of Kitimat did cooperate with National Resources in finding a location for their recently installed seismic equipment.
At Harley Bay, Gitga’at First Nation CEO Ellen Torng said the Gitga’at have been “ working with NRCan on their research in the Douglas Channel and in Hawksbury. NRC has been meeting with First Nations along the coast and have conducted community sessions on their research.
“We hosted one community session here in Hartley Bay and have regular updates from their technical team when they are in the area,” Torng said.
In addition, the District of Kitimat told Northwest Coast Energy News that Community Planning & Development department also provided local land information to geoscientists in the years leading up an international study called Batholiths on land in 2009.
Batholiths are large zones of molten rock that have solidified in the earth’s crust and are believed to play a key role in the formation and growth of continents. The Coast Mountain Range has a large concentration of batholiths, which means Kitimat was an excellent place to study the earth’s crust.
The project, which involved more than 50 scientists from nine Canadian and American universities, was set up to examine how mountain belts form and change over time and why continental mountain ranges are made of granite not basalt. Seismic imaging of the crust and mantle below the mountains required deploying thousands of seismic sensors and recorders, and recorded responses to several man-made detonations. Field work was completed in July 2009, and several scientific papers and dissertations have followed.
The Heiltsuk Nation was unable to respond to a request for comment due to the ongoing crisis from the sinking of the tug Nathan E. Stewart and the resulting spill of diesel fuel and other contaminants near Bella Bella.
Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.
Felt only by a few persons at rest,especially on upper floors of buildings.
Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.
Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.
Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.
Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.
Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.
Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.
Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.