An open letter to:
Hon. Bill Bennett
Minister of Energy and Mines
Dear Mr. Bennett:
The Enbridge Corporation through numbered corporate entities is proposing to construct as many as nine run- of-river (ROR) hydro projects on streams in the Terrace – Kitimat area.
The largest project, #8056587, would be on the Clore River, a tributary of the Zymoetz (Copper) River downstream of the confluence with the Burnie River. The section of the river where the hydro project would be developed is from the top of a long series of cataract steps, 1 to 3 m in height, for a distance of about 7 km.
The river is a scenic icon, in a region where spectacular scenery is taken for granted. It is the largest, most productive and important summer run steelhead tributary within the Zymoetz River system, which in turn is one of a list of nine intact, iconic, and globally significant summer run steelhead rivers left in British Columbia, eight of which are located in the NW region of our province.
The other rivers include the Skeena and Nass, and their tributaries the Cranberry, Bulkley-Morice, Kispiox, Babine, Zymoetz and Sustut along with a number of other tributaries that have been recognized and fished in a serious way by resident and international tourist anglers from many countries since the 1940’s.
No other cluster of rivers in the world hold so much esteem and stature, whether they are rivers where other species such as Atlantic salmon abound or are famous for their trout or Pacific salmon fisheries.
The Clore is a river where summer steelhead can be caught on a dry fly as small as a number 14 hook, imitating a “mayfly”. Few places on earth provide such an opportunity, where it is possible to catch a large, migratory salmon which has returned from the Pacific Ocean in such a delicate and frankly astonishing way.
Steelhead, chinook and coho salmon, resident rainbow and bull trout all spawn and rear for part of their life cycle in this river along with various other indigenous species such as rocky mountain and pygmy white fish, and prickly sculpin.
The Clore River through the ROR study section of the river is a kayaker’s delight. This is where kayaking is as good as it gets. It is treasured by those who love the sport and fortunate enough to paddle through its waters.
To tinker and manipulate the water flows of this river could be tragic. Enbridge has no idea how special and important this river is. On a world scale few summer run steelhead rivers remain intact, wild and free running.
It is interesting to note that the corporation proposal document makes no reference to consultation with the public or mention of the environmental assessment process that we understand has to kick in for a project generating more than 50 mw of electrical power.
Another reason why this company has no business applying to build this project is that it made no effort to inform the public about its proposal.
It has shown limited knowledge of fish species in the watershed and no concern for those who have tourism operations and are dependent upon the Clore fisheries as part of their business or for the many resident anglers who treasure the recreation the river provides.
The company also missed identifying a number of species of mammals such as grizzly bears that inhabit the watershed.
The project is a money grab and is shocking when it was clear that a previous company also wanted to build a ROR on this river and bowed out because of the controversy they would have created over the impact upon salmon and steelhead.
The second ROR project proposal, again by a numbered Enbridge company is planned for Williams Creek, the largest tributary feeding into the Lakelse River Watershed.
The creek is a small river that flows into Lakelse Lake. It is the primary salmon spawning and rearing tributary where the majority of the sockeye salmon spawn, along with large numbers of coho salmon, steelhead, some chinook salmon, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, dolly varden char and bull trout as well as variety of other indigenous river species.
This project proposal to the best of our knowledge is located in the headwaters or on a large tributary stream. We were unable to pinpoint the exact location because the information in the document was rather vague saying it was on Williams Creek approximately 12 km from Terrace even though a picture showed it on a tributary stream.
Native dolly varden, whitefish and other non-migratory species inhabit the upper watershed including numerous small tributary streams where waterfalls are barriers to migratory species.
The upper river and tributary streams water flows are a crucial element in the maintenance of sufficient and natural water flows for lower and middle Williams Creek . Even with no appreciable or impacting human habitation the river can experience very low summer, fall and winter flows that can strand adult and juvenile salmon in pools and back channels where large numbers of coho salmon and other species spawn and rear.
A partnership between the DFO, the Kitselas First Nation, local residents and conservation organizations is carrying out an extensive, long term rebuilding program for Lakelse sockeye and Williams Creek is where the primary focus for these salmon is taking place.
The sockeye recovery program depends upon a healthy and natural stream flow regime. Modification or manipulation of water flows to suit a ROR could have a damaging impact upon salmonid eggs incubating in the gravels and juvenile fish rearing in the side channels.
This river is also important to local kayakers because it is one of the most paddled in the area due to its accessibility and closeness to Terrace and Kitimat.
The number of waterfalls and fast water is a kayakers’ delight.
The Skeena region is very special, its outdoor activities and scenic attributes are second to none yet at best have only been given lip service by your government. Environmental assessment is meant to protect as much as possible those things that will be impacted upon by development.
Unfortunately in some instances there is no mitigation or compensation that can save a location or habitat from the impact of development. No amount of hiding, manipulation or compensation can replace what mother nature has created. These two projects would be devastating and for that reason should not be considered for construction. They should be disbanded before further study and planning has been expended.
Your consideration of our reasoning and concern for the two watersheds and the importance they hold for British Columbians and tourist anglers from around the world is crucial.
It is very unethical and disturbing that Enbridge through its ongoing glossy TV Ads wants the B.C. public to support construction of its oil pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat.
The video scenes of fly fishing, marine areas, river valleys and mountain backdrops and underwater photos of steelhead and sockeye salmon is hypocritical knowing full well that their various energy operations will alter and impact fish and wildlife habitats.
These two hydro projects will not provide firm electrical power, will be damaging to the environment and tourism and will exacerbate the high cost of purchasing private power along with increasing the BC Hydro debt load.
Northern Branch of the Steelhead Society of B.C.,