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REPORTING · 14th April 2010
Merv Ritchie
Updated Department of Fisheries Officer Mitch Drewes from Terrace returned our call and informed us he was unaware of this issue until today and also he was unaware of any application in process for work on removal of this piping. He recalled a section being removed approximately 5 years ago and about another exposed section at Skully Creek.

Drewes stated the exposed section on the Copper is upwards of 30 kilometers up the creek and that these installations were completed at a time when the standards were much less stringent. Today he expects the directional drilling at stream bed crossings would likely be about 8 feet deep preventing these types of exposure events.

In his opinion the appropriate time for working in the river to remove the material would be in July not in November as was implied by the PNG representative. The priority consideration would be the preservation of any eggs which may be present.

As residents of the Northwest Region of BC, (affectionately called the Sacred Circle), prepare to engage in a Federally appointed Joint Review Panel to share concerns on the proposal by Enbridge to construct a new pipeline to carry crude oil through the region, some have brought concerns forward about past practices.

Numerous pipelines have already been constructed through the ‘Sacred Circle’ to carry natural gas. These have encountered breakages for various reasons, primarily slides. For this reason Enbridge is proposing to construct their pipeline in a manner they hope will avoid the most serious slide area. To cross the Coast Mountains they will be constructing two tunnels through North Hope Peak and Nimbus Mountain.

The natural gas pipelines currently used were designed to provide fuel for local consumption and industries therefore they passed through communities and local area rivers. When these were damaged and repaired it appears the unused portions were left in place.

The attached pictures reveal portions of one of these pipelines exposed and interrupting the natural flow of the Kitimat River. This particular crossing is south of the Kitimat River Bridge near to the location the high voltage power lines cross the highway North of Cablecar. Exposed pipelines can be found in other rivers according to local fishing guide Gil McKean. He describes remnants of pipelines and more debris left all over the region listing four rivers; Kasiks, Copper, Kitimat and the Gitnadoik on the south side of the Skeena, and a major debris field of waste (not pipeline related) at the abandoned Scotia River Logging Camp.

These issues cause concern to the local guiding community as they bring in tourists from all across the globe to see what is touted as an expansive pristine environment. The exposed pipelines also present a hazard for the boating public. As McKean described it, one would need to be familiar with the rivers and just where these hazards are to safely navigate the waterways. He wondered out loud if any of the local fisheries or environmental officials had even traveled the waterways. If they had, he asked, why is this debris still in the rivers, exposed and interfering with the spawning grounds.

Craig Sears from Pacific Northern Gas stated the exposed line in the Kitimat River has been dead and isolated since the closure of the Methanex facility in Kitimat and they became aware of it being exposed 3 years ago. Sears claimed the river shifted somewhat at that time and it has become more exposed in the last two years, stating plans are in the works to pull it out in November adding they are required to apply for and achieve the proper permitting.

In regards to the Copper and Kasiks Sears stated these are abandoned pipes and were determined to be the least harmful to the environment to be left in place. This determination was made in concert with what he calls ‘the regulatory authorities’.

Sears wrote, “PNG’s primary objective is to provide safe reliable service to our customers. Safety of people and the environment are always a top priority for us. Our original facilities were installed in 1968. As you know we have very active rivers which can move dramatically. We are continually monitoring all of our facilities to ensure their safety and on-going integrity. All actions we undertake to ensure the on-going integrity of our facilities comply with the appropriate regulations, and are approved by the regulatory agency(s) involved.”

As for the Gitnadoix River crossing Sears explained they constructed an overhead crossing at that location and all of the material used during the construction has since been removed.

Eric Pierce from the Ministry of the Environment in Smithers wrote, “The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is the appropriate agency with whom to discuss the appropriate methods for removal of material from watercourses. The Ministry of Environment regulates the discharge of wastes into the Environment. The discharge of waste into the environment generally requires an authorization under the Environmental Management Act and Waste Discharge Regulation. Once removed in a manner acceptable to the DFO, any material such as described below would need to be disposed at an authorized waste disposal site.”

Sears stated they may run a new pipe under the Kitimat River by a method he called directional drilling, should Kitimat require extra capacity in the future however at this time they have determined it is not required.

Pierce claimed he was unaware of these exposed pipes, calling them “interesting” and of the debris left at the Scotia Creek Logging Camp. We have placed calls to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and will provide updates as they become available.