Rhodamine dyes exhibit bright, sometimes seemingly fluorescent, colour.

Researchers to flush Skeena with bright dyes for spill-response study

Kitsumkalum leading effort as rail transport of hazardous materials on the rise

Don’t panic if you see ribbons of brightly-coloured liquid flowing through the Skeena River this summer.

The Kitsumkalum Fish and Wildlife Operations Department (KFWOD) will be staining the river with non-toxic, biodegradable rhodamine dye to develop a spill response plan for train derailments in the Skeena watershed.

Knowing how a spill will behave will help KFWOD identify locations for caches of spill-response equipment between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

“Rivers are very difficult to protect. Oceans are a lot easier because it’s open water,” says Mark Biagi, KFWOD manager. “The lower Skeena has a lot of islands, a lot of meandering and a lot of grading on the bottom. We need to understand, if there is a derailment along the river, how do we protect the salmon, how do we best respond.”

With the help of the Kitselas, the Kitsumkalum spent a year creating a high-resolution map of the CN rail line from from Kitimat to Terrace, and Kitwanga to Prince Rupert. In Phase 2, Kitsumkalum identified all the areas of importance to salmon habitat. For Phase 3 KFWOD have engaged Northwest Hydraulic Consultants to create a workable model of the Skeena.

The dyes will be tracked by drones and a “battery of sensors” to digitally amplify the rhodamine’s presence. GPS-equipped sensors will also be tracked by satellite to map long-range impacts.

READ MORE: No health, safety risk after acidic spill into Columbia River: Teck

“We already know where the sensitive areas are, and now we can start looking at how to protect them,” Biagi says. “Where do we intercept the spill? How do we corral the spill, get it into an area we can manage it and clean it up?”

The first dye and sensor release will take place around July 2 near the bridge crossing of the Kalum River. The second will likely take place mid to late August in the Terrace area. The dyes will take about seven hours to dissipate and will be either yellow or red in colour.

The study will not impact fishery openings or other river activities, says Biagi.

KFWOD has been working with the provincial government on this project through the framework of a Geographic Response Plan program, and with the federal government through the Marine Protection Plan.

“The problem is, salmon habitat are federal jurisdiction and rivers are provincial jurisdiction. It’s a jurisdictional quagmire,” Biagi says. “What we’re doing is trying to prevent that from becoming the reason why we do nothing when a disaster happens.”

In addition to current volumes of hazardous materials carried to and from the coast, Vopak Pacific Canada is proposing to build a bulk liquid petroleum export facility on Ridley Island near Prince Rupert that will require an increase of 240 rail cars per day travelling through the area — 60 for liquefied petroleum gas and 90 for clean petroleum products, such as diesel or gasoline, and 90 for methanol.

READ MORE: Vopak expects 240 liquid gas-by-rail cars per day

Since the completion of the AltaGas propane export terminal in Prince Rupert, rail traffic is already increasing by up to 60 cars of propane passing through the watershed per day. That number may double if a second propane export facility in Kitimat, Pacific Traverse Energy, goes forward.

“We’ve been working very diligently to get the federal government to accept the fact that if a spill takes place on the Skeena, it’s going to end up in the estuary and marine environment,” Biagi says, adding CN Rail has been very cooperative in the project.

Once the study is complete, the Kitsumkalum will share their findings with CN Rail and both the B.C. and Canadian governments to develop a geographical emergency spill response strategy.

”We ask for the public’s patience and understanding as we carry out our study. There are no impacts while the study is taking place. Just a dramatic and temporary change in the colour of the river,” says Biagi.

Just Posted

RCMP searching for missing Lax Kw’alaams resident

Public urged to help in search for 42-year-old Lawrence Maitland

Pacific Northern Gas moves to reinstate full capacity and expand pipeline

Increased supply and demand could mean lower rates for North Coast customers, PNG says

CN train derailment cleared between Terrace and Prince Rupert

The CN mainline is now open, following a train derailment mid-way between… Continue reading

Kitimat’s BC Hydro substation receives a massive upgrade

It will cost $82 million to ensure that LNG Canada has enough… Continue reading

Comment requested for Kitimat LNG’s expansion plans

Company says radical redesign means additional export is possible

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Coast Tsimshian sign historic stewardship agreement

Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla plan to work as one to preserve traditional lands

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Most Read