Salmon smoult at mouth of Porpoise Channel, just off Lelu Island
Photographer: Tavish Campbell
Every Skeena River salmon and steelhead that lives to maturity, transitions between freshwater and saltwater twice. This happens in the estuary, where the flow of the river pushes against, and is pulled along by the surges and ebbs of the tides. It's a place of crazy chemistry for fish, and also a vital piece of habitat in ensuring that salmon survive.
Pacific Northwest LNG plans to build an LNG export facility on Lelu Island in the Skeena River estuary, amid this crucial salmon habitat. This, despite the facts that siting a plant there also puts it within 2 km of human settlement (Port Edward), and necessitates LNG carrier passage through constricted channels – both of which are against best practices in the LNG industry. LNG carriers are the largest non-military vessels in the world – longer than three football fields. Their approach to and egress from ports requires shutdowns of other marine traffic.
The mooring and loading jetty for Pacific Northwest LNG, a 3 km-long structure, would run along the northwest edge of Flora Bank, which is eelgrass habitat used by salmon as they move in and out of the Skeena River. Biologists hired by Pacific Northwest LNG have decreed that Flora Bank is marginal eelgrass habitat, and that matters could be improved for the salmon by damaging part of it, dredging the surrounding waters to facilitate passage of LNG carriers, and then creating new eelgrass habitat nearby. This would be the largest marine dredging operation ever undertaken in Canadian waters. The pipeline that would feed Pacific Northwest LNG would approach the terminal from offshore, creating additional disturbance and risk to salmon habitat. The LNG plant operations would require the storage, production, and handling of toxic chemicals at tidewater.
Independent researchers, not tied by their pay cheques to the demands of industry, consider Flora Bank to be rich with salmon, echoing a 1973 report that concluded that Flora Bank should be off-limits to industrial development. Their findings were recently summarized in the media.
The gas terminals couldn't be in a worse spot, say scientists.
Two multi-billion-dollar LNG marine export facilities slated for the province’s northwest are under fire for being smack dab in the most critically important waters for rearing millions of wild B.C. salmon, a new Simon Fraser University scientific study reveals.
“The worst case scenario is the [Skeena] salmon population would collapse, and to levels that would not allow commercial fishing,” said Assistant Professor Jonathan Moore with SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management.
Malaysia’s state-oil company Petronas is seeking to build the $11-billion “Pacific Northwest LNG” terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert (1,500 km northwest of Vancouver).
Next to it, a British-company -- BG Group -- wants to build the $16-billion “Prince Rupert LNG” project on Ridley Island.
“This area, right where this [LNG] development is proposed, has the highest abundance of some of the most important salmon species within the Skeena watershed," said Moore, an aquatic ecologist.
Mychaylo Prystupa, Vancouver Observer, July 9, 2014
Have a look at the photographs below, taken May 26, 2014, by Tavish Campbell, and see what you think.
Watch the video trailer: Skeena Estuary: Heart of the River.
Keep in mind that another LNG export project, Prince Rupert LNG, concurrently has plans to build a facility on the south end of Ridley Island, less than 1 km from Lelu Island. Although final routing is not decided, this facility would probably also be fed by an offshore pipeline, and it would service LNG vessels. Between the two plants, at least 330 LNG vessels would transit in and out of the estuary each year. The BC government and the proponents want to see these projects operational by 2020.
The clock is ticking. Government and industry will not protect the salmon of the Skeena River.
It's up to us.
LNG in the Skeena River estuary? Not Now. Not Ever.
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Tell Petronas to get lost and leave Lelu Island and Skeena salmon alone.
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