WHEN WALTER Fricke sits in his boat on the river, fishing rod in hand, it brings him more than peace.
It contributes to his identity. Fricke knows what it’s like for that to be taken away.
On August 1, 2000, one million litres of crude oil spilled into Pine Creek, a body of water cherished by Fricke while he was living in Dawson Creek B.C. for its bounty of Arctic Greyling, which he would catch and release.
After the spill, Fricke, a fishing guide and avid sport fisherman, moved back to Terrace where he was raised. After hearing of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal, feelings he’d experienced then began to return.
“When I first heard of the rupture, all I could think was everything I released was probably dead or dying. It was traumatic to think of all the fish that succumbed to the toxic sweet crude oil,” he told three members of a federal panel reviewing the project May 8 at the Kitsumkalum Community Hall. “Upon hearing the proposed Enbridge plan, I almost got sick to my stomach.”
Fricke was one of 58 people to speak to the panel which met May 7-9 at the hall.
Panel members Sheila Leggett, Kenneth Bateman and Hans Matthews were attending the second round of hearings into the $5.5 billion oil export proposal. In this round, the committee listened to 10-minute presentations.
The project involves running two 1,170 kilometre pipelines to transport oil from Alberta to an export terminal in Kitimat for shipment overseas.
One of the pipelines will pump a thinning agent called condensate. It will be taken off tankers docking at Kitimat and carried to Alberta where it will then be mixed with oil.
Also speaking was a former Terrace economic development officer who said that now that he is employed elsewhere, he can finally speak out about the project.
“Enbridge officials came to our region as if the project was a sure thing,” Sam Harling said, adding that during the course of his job he met with many industry leaders he thought were sincere and that Enbridge officials stood out to him particularly as being the opposite.
“I’m actually ashamed I did not stand up to [oppose] the project,” he said.
Harling added that as economic development officer for the Terrace Economic Development Authority, his official opinions were decided by a vote by the authority’s board of directors and they thought displaying opposition would show the city was not open for business.
Harling congratulated the current city council for opposing the project.
“I know this is not what city councils normally do,” he said, adding he thinks it’s important for governments to take a stand when a project is not in the best interest of the society they govern.
John Jensen, a retired carpenter’s union official, spoke as well.
Jensen questioned the integrity of the review, saying that although he’d shown up to exercise his democratic right to partake in the hearings he doesn’t have faith that the panel has an influence over the project.
“It’s a stacked deck,” he said, pointing to the federal government’s intent to have the cabinet overrule any decision made by an independent hearing panel such as the one for Northern Gateway.
Lori Merrill also spoke, referring to the “web of life that the water provides for all.”
She painted verbal images of old growth trees and other natural
elements that rely on local river systems, not to mention people.
Merrill said the profound beauty of our region has attracted those dedicated to being its environmental stewards, acknowledging that as her motive for speaking.
Listening to oral presentations is part of the panel’s task in deciding on whether or not the pipeline project is in the public interest.