The Prince Rupert Port Authority courted Petronas to place one of the largest LNG projects in the world directly over top of some of the most sensitive and important salmon habitat in Canada.
Widespread concerns from local communities, First Nations, academics and conservation groups means the Port Authority may have set-up Petronas to fail the social license test.
“It is hard to understand why the Prince Rupert Port Authority asked Petronas to site their facility there” said Greg Knox, Executive Director of the Skeena Wild Conservation trust. “They were told by the Department of Fisheries & Oceans back in 1972 that port development on Lelu Island was a bad idea, and to find another site.”
Stalling of the environmental assessment process, and recent changes by Petronas to reduce the amount of dredging, highlight the severity of potential impacts.
“The project would destroy critical eel grass habitat, fill and eliminate shoreline ecosystems, and dredge up toxic chemicals buried in the sediment from a decommissioned pulp mill,” stated Barb Faggetter, Oceanographer, Ocean Ecology. “These toxins, which are known to accumulate in food chains to dangerous levels, would be re-released into the environment, impacting fish, crabs, and the people who eat them.”
Research undertaken by Simon Fraser University, First Nations, and local conservation groups show the area proposed for development is also where the majority of juvenile Skeena salmon spend the first few weeks when they exit the Skeena River each spring.
“This is the time when salmon are most physiologically challenged and vulnerable; having to adjust to the ocean environment, find new foods, and avoid a suite of new predators,” said Michael Price, Salmon Ecologist, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. “This will impact everyone in the Skeena watershed who depends on salmon.”
While Petronas has proposed to create new fish habitat in other areas of the estuary, “Research shows this to be ineffective most of the time, and potentially destructive,” stated Michael Price.
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust has requested Petronas find a more suitable site for their project.
Press Release, October 10, 2014; Image: Prince Rupert Port Authority