LNG terminals could collapse B.C. wild salmon run: SFU scientists

New science shows that Pacific Northwest LNG and Prince Rupert LNG are smack dab in the most sensitive spot for millions of Skeena salmon, treasured by fisheries, anglers, First Nations and sushi lovers.

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BG Group Prince Rupert LNG terminal on Ridley Island

Illustration of BG Group's Prince Rupert LNG facility on Ridley Island

Likewise, the British proponent behind the even larger neighbouring terminal – Prince Rupert LNG – defended the company's understanding of the salmon habitat:

“BG Group understands and respects that the environment, including fish and wildlife habitat and particularly the Skeena River, is of great cultural and commercial importance to the people of northern BC,” wrote David Byford, BG’s Houston-based spokesperson.

“As part of our environmental assessment work, we have conducted extensive baseline and technical studies that we believe meet and exceed provincial and federal requirements,” he added.

Underwater salmon Skeena estuary - tavishcampbell

But salmon conservationists spoke of the SFU study with alarm.

“[LNG] development shouldn’t take place there.  It should be sited somewhere else,” said Skeena Wild Conservation Trust executive director Greg Knox.

“This research is simply reconfirming [what’s been known since the 1970s].  And [the habitat there] is probably more important that we thought,” he added.

The non-profit commissioned some of the underwater and aerial photography in this story.

Moore said the area is special because it is a "migratory bottleneck" for the salmon.  

Young salmon smolts use the underwater eelgrasses of Flora Bank and the surrounding shallow channels to adjust to the Pacific’s salt waters, following their outbound migration from the Skeena River watershed.  

Where fresh water meets salt - salmon in Skeena estuary - Tavish Campbell

“This is an estuary at the base of river watershed that is the size of Denmark, and so you have all this amazing biodiversity and salmon, and it all has to go through this pinch point [near Prince Rupert],” said the aquatic ecologist.

The SFU researchers submitted comments about their study to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to consider. 

As adults, the Pacific salmon swim back through the estuary and up the northern watershed in the millions where they are caught.

Last year, the adult Skeena sockeye salmon numbers plunged to one of the lowest levels in 50 years.  Many recreational and food fisheries were ordered closed.

Salmon underwater - Skeena Wild Conservation Trust

LNG company hopes to “double” the salmon 

Under Canadian law, the habitat for commercially important fish cannot be destroyed or harmed unless authorized.  So the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) policy is to ensure projects result in “no net loss" of fish.

But Pacific Northwest LNG states it will do one better, pledging to double the number of fish.

“We’ve said that for every square metre we will create the productivity value of that square metre by two more metres, so the basically the productivity of what we impact, we will double the productivity,”  said Brian Clark, the company’s Environmental Advisor.

“I know why people are skeptical, [the fish habitat] is important to them, they care a lot about it.  But we have to follow the federal rules, and the federal rules say you cannot destroy fish habitat without replacing the value.”

Industrial efforts to improve fish habitat have had mixed results.  A 2005 DFO compliance audit showed that of 52 industrial habitat compensation projects in Canada, 58 per cent failed to improve fish numbers.

Still, the company says the high-elevation design of its jetty-trestle over the critical Flora Bank will minimize the aquatic impact.  The peer-like structure would be six to 11 metres above high water, creating no loss of light or water flow for migrating fish, said Clark.

LNG Carrier ship - WikiCommons

Dredging up toxic chemicals

Both terminals would require massive dredging of Port of Prince Edward to allow for LNG carriers.

Trouble is, the harbour’s sediments are laden with toxic chemicals and heavy metals going back decades.  An old paper mill once spewed effluent in the area, causing a dramatic decline in aquatic life.

“These contaminated sediments are buried right now, so they’re sort of locked up, they’re safe right now.  But the worry is, if you dredge [700,000] cubic metres, you might mobilize some of it,” said Moore.

Both companies have tested the underwater sediments. 

Pacific Northwest LNG consultants found a nasty brew of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), metals and dioxins and furans in the estuary mud.  

Some of the toxic levels are not safe, but below levels where adverse effects are typically observed, states the report.

Map Pacific Northwest LNG and Prince Rupert LNG - Skeena Wild Conservation

Dredging areas from LNG and other proposed projects.  Flora Bank eelgrass shown in green.  Source: Skeena Wild Conservation Trust & Ocean Ecology 

A question of location?

BG's Canadian president told the Prince Rupert community last year that the location of the Prince Rupert LNG terminal was less damaging to the environment, because it's slated for the already industrially busy Ridley Island, whereas Lelu Island is a "green field."

Likewise, an often-cited 1973 Department of Fisheries and Oceans report said Lelu Island should be a no-go zone for industrial development due to the "high biological significance" of the salmon rearing habitat.  But development on Ridley Island would have the least environmental harm, it said.

Complicating matters, the region is seeing a boom in other industrial projects.  A potash terminal is proposed, and two more LNG terminals are also proposed north of Prince Rupert near Grassy Point:

  • Woodside Energy LNG – by Australia’s Woodside Petroleum
  • Aurora LNG – by a Chinese-Japanese consortium led by a Nexen (a subsidiary of the Chinese state-oil company CNOOC)

There are now 14 LNG terminal proposals in B.C. -- the latest, from Port Alberni, was announced Tuesday.  Experts suggest only three may be viable, as the global price of natural gas continues to slide.

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Skeena River

Its building momentum, its growing stronger every day, by way of informing people about what the price of LNG will be to the citizens of the Skeena River and tributaries. There is no way on Gods green earth that the citizens after defeating the Northern Gateway Pipeline would allow yet another threat to our river.

If we were going to approve of its destruction we would not have stood in the way of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, but I can tell you this, people are not getting more receptive, they are getting more and more angry. We want these jackasses to get the hell away from our rivers. This includes fish farms, bitumen and that fracking gas!

We have had enough, beware to those who want to push us to far.

Understanding LNG vs Oil

Reinier Kanis wrote:

Its building momentum, its growing stronger every day, by way of informing people about what the price of LNG will be to the citizens of the Skeena River and tributaries. There is no way on Gods green earth that the citizens after defeating the Northern Gateway Pipeline would allow yet another threat to our river.

If we were going to approve of its destruction we would not have stood in the way of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, but I can tell you this, people are not getting more receptive, they are getting more and more angry. We want these jackasses to get the hell away from our rivers. This includes fish farms, bitumen and that fracking gas!

We have had enough, beware to those who want to push us to far.

It seems like you don't understand the difference between Northern Gateway oil pipeline/export dangers, and LNG pipeline/export dangers. Why were you against Northern Gateway?....for most educated people, it is the risk of oil spills....the bitumen is impossible to clean up because it sinks (and of course is oil, which require emulsifiers to remove). LNG is a gas at earth's surface temperature...any spill will float and quickly evaporate. The issue thus, as the SFU professor indicated, is the POTENTIAL for damaging the salmon runs. Unless there is significant water pollution, which natural gas terminals don't produce, there isn't much pollution danger to the salmon. So the issue is physical space for the salmon to live/grow. THAT is something that the designers of the terminals CAN work to significantly reduce. It is purely a matter of design and mitigation. The Fraser River has been far more polluted with a complete lack of planning to protect salmon, yet it still has large salmon runs. In fact, the greatest damage to the Fraser's salmon runs are overfishing rather than Vancouver's industries!. It is not easy to kill of salmon runs with proper planning. You do not need to sacrifice your economy to save salmon. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't even be living in BC as your presence is hurting BC's ecology.

 

disappearing fish stocks and pipelines

In the NWT when two pipelines were eventually built the residents discovered a disturbing fact.  The pipeline built on stilts worked well.  Pipelines that went under the streams acted as sonic barriers for spawning fish.  The vibration under the river stopped the returning fish from swimming unto the areas where they traditionally spawned and many fish stocks collapsed.  

Now that Fisheries and Oceans scientific papers have been placed in a private companies library who will know  where to look??  Money or fish?? Just wondering along the banks of the Athabasca. 

 

 

reply to dave L

Dave L wrote:

Reinier Kanis wrote:

Its building momentum, its growing stronger every day, by way of informing people about what the price of LNG will be to the citizens of the Skeena River and tributaries. There is no way on Gods green earth that the citizens after defeating the Northern Gateway Pipeline would allow yet another threat to our river.

If we were going to approve of its destruction we would not have stood in the way of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, but I can tell you this, people are not getting more receptive, they are getting more and more angry. We want these jackasses to get the hell away from our rivers. This includes fish farms, bitumen and that fracking gas!

We have had enough, beware to those who want to push us to far.

It seems like you don't understand the difference between Northern Gateway oil pipeline/export dangers, and LNG pipeline/export dangers. Why were you against Northern Gateway?....for most educated people, it is the risk of oil spills....the bitumen is impossible to clean up because it sinks (and of course is oil, which require emulsifiers to remove). LNG is a gas at earth's surface temperature...any spill will float and quickly evaporate. The issue thus, as the SFU professor indicated, is the POTENTIAL for damaging the salmon runs. Unless there is significant water pollution, which natural gas terminals don't produce, there isn't much pollution danger to the salmon. So the issue is physical space for the salmon to live/grow. THAT is something that the designers of the terminals CAN work to significantly reduce. It is purely a matter of design and mitigation. The Fraser River has been far more polluted with a complete lack of planning to protect salmon, yet it still has large salmon runs. In fact, the greatest damage to the Fraser's salmon runs are overfishing rather than Vancouver's industries!. It is not easy to kill of salmon runs with proper planning. You do not need to sacrifice your economy to save salmon. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't even be living in BC as your presence is hurting BC's ecology.

 

I disagree that people concerned with the ecology of BC, who are speaking up for protection of BC's ecosystems, are hurting the 'ecology' of BC. I think the ecological footprint of Individual BC residents goes beyond their direct impact, but it can be strongly modified further into the negative or also into the positive depending on their influence on others, how those use their vote, and their influence in steering future values and economic trajectories. There are numerous British Columbian's in the past who have had a remarkably positive legacy for the health and integrity of BC 's ecosystems. I also disagree that it's a 'fact' that overfishing is a stronger, more direct cause of declining Fraser River salmon populations than is industrial pollution. If you know the cause of salmon decline, then you are ahead of scientific researchers, but your probably not, so your talking hot air. Lastly, the potential risks of the LNG are not just harm due to displacement. That is the SINGLE harm that they can compensate for, and that the Fisheries Act will will require them to compensate for, but it is just part of the potential impact. (Read the article above)

Dave L wrote:

It seems like you don't understand the difference between Northern Gateway oil pipeline/export dangers, and LNG pipeline/export dangers. Why were you against Northern Gateway?....for most educated people, it is the risk of oil spills....the bitumen is impossible to clean up because it sinks (and of course is oil, which require emulsifiers to remove). LNG is a gas at earth's surface temperature...any spill will float and quickly evaporate. The issue thus, as the SFU professor indicated, is the POTENTIAL for damaging the salmon runs. [...] You do not need to sacrifice your economy to save salmon. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't even be living in BC as your presence is hurting BC's ecology.

Surely oil spills and the risk of damaging (or destroying) the salmon runs are cause for concern. But there's another, far more serious "danger" here that you fail to mention: supporting the LNG terminals (and the pipelines) means advocating for burning (even) more fossil fuels, leading to the warming of the planet and, ultimately, potentially irreversible damage to the climate and ecology.

In other words, if a sane person would like their grandchildren to live on a planet resembling the one we currently inhabit, then they logically have to be opposed to further fossil fuel development -- and be in favour of a radical and rapid transition to renewable energy, among other things.

The claim that opposing LNG and gas development and export amounts to "sacrificing the economy" is complete nonsense; it's nothing more than a scare tactic -- and an obvious one, at that. If we don't commit ourselves to burning more fossil fuels (and destroying the planet) there will be no other work to do? Really? Come on. Anyone that spends two seconds thinking about all the work involved in transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable resource-based economy can easily see this for themselves -- that is, if they allow themselves to see it.

I guess they didnt do a

I guess they didnt do a proper environmental ass