Northern Gateway: avalanche dangers raised

Another council meeting, another anti-Enbridge presentation.

Another council meeting, another anti-Enbridge presentation.

The Douglas Channel Watch kept up its relentless pressure on city council over the proposed Northern Gateway project at the latter’s March 5 meeting.

This time it was Murray Minchin making the presentation and his focus was on the possibility of the pipelines being ruptured by an avalanche or rock fall.

He zeroed in on the upper Kitimat Valley, specifically the exit of the proposed tunnel through Nimbus Mountain into the Kitimat River valley as well as Holt and Hunter Creeks.

Minchin showed photos of the tunnel exit location saying the lack of mature trees suggested the area was regularly swept by avalanches.

Another photo showed “middle-aged hemlock” the tops of which had been sheared off.

On the subject of rock falls, he pointed out there was a rock bluff located 15 metres above the proposed tunnel portal and “you can clearly see the rock fall material on the forest floor.”

He also noted several more rock bluffs climbed the mountain above.

Minchin noted the proposed pipeline would make an aerial crossing of Holt Creek meaning it would be fully exposed to any rock falls and avalanches.

“Holt Creek would quickly deliver any spills into the Kitimat River,” he added.

Five kilometres downstream of where Holt Creek enters the Kitimat was the Hunter Creek Valley.

“Enbridge’s own avalanche consultant warned that massive avalanches in this valley could dam the creek,” Minchin pointed out.

The water would back up until it cut through the snow dam “unleashing a flash flood” which Minchin said could rupture the pipelines even when buried 12 feet below the creek.

He also told council that in the 1980s debris had built up under the old Hunter Creek bridge – it was subsequently washed away in a flood – diverting the creek that then tore out 500 metres of logging road.

And that Enbridge proposed its pipeline would parallel that same road.

Earlier in his presentation Minchin had noted, “Enbridge admits in their proposal to the JRP (Joint Review Panel) that two million litres (of bitumen) could spill into the upper Kitimat River.”

While the documentation said employees at the tank farm would respond to such a spill, along with local contractors, and be able to find and contain the spill in four hours, he said Enbridge had also said such a spill would reach the estuary in those same four hours.

In the event of such a spill – which he said Enbridge admits could close the sport fishery for as much as four years – Minchin asked, “Where would Kitimat get its water?”

He asked mayor and council to organise another public forum with speakers representing the Haisla, Enbridge and an environmental group.

Minchin said a number of disturbing issues had come to light since the last forum and “Kitimat deserves to have as much information as possible before deciding on this project.”

Commenting on the presentation, councillor Phil Germuth said, “Obviously any threat to our drinking water needs to be looked at very seriously.”

He also asked Minchin if he was aware of Enbridge having looked at an alternative route that would avoid the Kitimat Valley.

Minchin said he was not.

And in response to a question from councillor Rob Goffinet, Minchin said this presentation – “and more” – had been submitted to the JRP as written evidence and could be found on its website.

Although council did not commit to another forum, at its following meeting councillor Mario Feldhoff moved that Enbridge be invited to make a presentation to council addressing the issues raised by Minchin.

Noting they were important issues, Feldhoff said it would be “only appropriate” for Enbridge to be given an opportunity to – “and should” – respond to them.

He suggested the community would benefit from hearing what the company had to say.

The motion passed unanimously.

 

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