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.