Many Kitimat locals are concerned that they won’t be able to fish as usual due to the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline construction cutting short available fishing hours at a preferred local fishing area.
The location, commonly referred to as ‘the Lower Dyke,’ as it’s at the bottom of the Dyke Road, is a favourite for its easy access to the Kitimat River and the variety of fishing spots along it.
At first the Lower Dyke was blocked off so CGL could build an updated road, which is now a key access point to the route the CGL pipeline will take leading to LNG Canada’s (LNGC) complex. But shortly after, measures were put in place that denied fishermen access to the river during peak fishing hours.
READ MORE: Dyke Road barricades removed by District
The public is no longer allowed to go in from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. due to ongoing construction throughout the day. Workers have also logged off the smaller trails that lead straight to the riverbank, meaning those wishing to go down there have to park and walk the last little bit, which can be difficult for those with mobility issues.
Richard Leite has been in Kitimat his entire life and knows of many locals, himself included, who have been fishing at the Lower Dyke for a long time; some even up to 30 to 40 years.
Leite said many locals go fishing down there every day, especially during the chinook run, the heaviest salmon run that occurs in spring and early summer. He said lots of locals choose the Lower Dyke because it has easier-to-access spots on the river, and many of the older fishermen can’t navigate the more difficult areas on the upper parts of the river. He also said many of these fishermen rely on the chinook run for food throughout the season.
“Where are these guys going to go?” Leite said. “What, they just can’t fish for the season? It just doesn’t make sense.”
Leite said that he and the other locals were ecstatic when CGL upgraded the roadway from the Dyke Road down to the river, as it had been a difficult trail to drive on previously, but the control measures on access hours then put in place turned the excitement to letdown soon afterwards.
“They are allowing people down, but only at certain times of the day — or night, should I say.”
Chris Harland is originally from Kitimat, but now lives on Vancouver Island. He came to Kitimat with a friend to show him the fishing, and was disheartened when he found out he wouldn’t be able to access the Lower Dyke for peak fly fishing times, which he prefers over casting and sitting on land.
“I was definitely disappointed when we first pulled up,” Harland said. “I brought my friend all the way up, he’s never fished up here, then it’s just a surprise that we can’t go to one of the best spots, especially for the fishing I like to do.”
Harland said he knows the construction is important, but he’s upset the prime fishing area isn’t open during peak hours in his short time back in Kitimat.
“I know [the pipeline construction] has to be done, but I don’t know, it’s just unfortunate,” Harland said. “Everyone who loves fishing should experience this river at least once.”
Leite said he and other locals know that there is a job to be done, they just wish CGL would connect with the local residents more so they could let the company know how much of a staple the Lower Dyke is to Kitimat.
“I think everybody knows [CGL has] a job to do and nobody wants…the project to shut down or anything like that. But I think they have to be a little bit more diligent as far as trying to accommodate a lot of the local guys who are just trying to go fish, you know?” Leite said. “They’re not telling anybody anything as far as, just you can’t come down here from six to six. I think they’re just lacking on getting information out to the public.”
The issue of blockages became more apparently the other week, when several locals tried to go down to fish just after 6 p.m. and were turned away by security. Leite contacted Mayor Phil Germuth, who got in touch with CGL and the issue was quickly sorted. Leite said CGL said it was a mistake that the barriers were kept up past 6 p.m., one which they worked to quickly mediate.
This mistake caused upset among many locals and CGL has been more forthcoming with conversation with locals, since, Leite said.
“I think they’ve realized they shouldn’t’ve done what they did and I think they’re going to try and correct it,” Leite said, “but what that means, I don’t know.”