Eagles are swarming to the dumps on Vancouver Island by the thousands. Killer whales are being found dead in Alaskan rivers, never known to happen before, starvation the cause. Widespread deaths of grizzly bears on the central and northern coast occurred last winter due to starvation. It is believed that all of these vulnerable predators have been triggered by the collapse of the salmon runs.
Whatever the cause of the collapse that is being debated, from over-fishing to the ISA virus, sea lice, pollution and the recent leak of million of gallons of radioactive water from Fukishima into the ocean, the fact remains that the salmon are on the brink and very close to extinction. Since they are the backbone of our coastal ecosystem, as well as the lifeblood of first nations cultures, everything that depends on them will die. Including the forests who are fed by them. Then I ask the proponents of Enbridge and the government of Canada, how can we afford a pipeline project that puts this damaged ecosystem at risk of beyond repair? To put it more fairly, given the nature of pipelines, oil spills will happen… In waterways. In fish habitat. Enbridge admits that there will be spills, that they can be “managed” but not eliminated.
The Polaris Institute calculated 804 spills occurred on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010. How soon can one find the beginning of a leak in this vast stretch of wilderness, a stretch of 1170 km that cross over 800 fish bearing rivers and streams? Three are important for salmon spawning. Enbridge admits that steel can corrode with water, bacteria and various chemicals. How do you clean up corroded pipelines in a distant future? They would have to be consistently maintained or dealt with… indefinitely. Factor in room for human err in their construction.
Factor in that scientists have been saying that the west coast is due for the Big One. From northern Vancouver Island, to the Haida Gwaii, the Pacific plate is sliding to the northwest at about 6 cm/year. The boundary between these two giant plates is the Queen Charlotte fault – Canada’s equivalent of the San Andreas fault. The active Queen Charlotte Fault has generated three large earthquakes; in 1929, a magnitude 7 occurred, in 1949, a magnitude 8.1 (Canada’s largest recorded earthquake) causing nearly a 500 kilometer long segment of the Queen Charlotte Fault to break and a magnitude 7.4 in 1970. Since 2001, four earthquakes have occurred from 6.3 to 6.8. How would pipelines resist an earthquake? How would a super tanker stand up to a tsunami? It is not possible to clean up a mess of this scale. I haven’t heard anyone bring up this specific risk. I can believe it because there are just too many other reasons why not to build the pipeline.