Forget the legion of problems connected to the proposed Enbridge pipeline. Assume the gargantuan project is going ahead and consider what route it should take.
There are certain criteria to be considered before arriving at your final decision. If they’re like every other corporation, the primary consideration for the good folks who constitute the creature we call Enbridge will be the bottom line, which means the cheapest route will be preferred.
But, you are not one of them. You have no vested interest in the corporation. You probably don’t own any shares. You would probably like to see our rivers continue to flow free of oil. You would probably prefer not to be on the receiving end of a catastrophe like the one the people of Kalamazoo Michigan are still enduring. You’d probably feel that Job One should be to ensure that the route chosen will be the one that minimizes the chance of rupture. I’d certainly put shielding the line from calamity as my primary criterion.
It’s obvious the final route for the poison filled pipes should be one that intersects the fewest environmentally sensitive areas. You will do well to choose a path that avoids lakes and wet lands and you will want to take special care to steer clear of rivers since they will quickly become uncontrollable agencies of dispersal in the event of oil and condensate spillage. Rivers also carry fish throughout the year and are plugged with them in summer and fall. Fish are the mainstay of the tourism industry in our neck of the woods. They are central to the culture of First Nations and pretty darn important to many of us Second Nations folk too.
Pipelines are subject to wear and tear. Like us, they become frail and subject to breakdown with age. Thus, you’ll want to lay down your line in such a way as to maximize access to it. The advantages to doing so are obvious. It will guarantee that the response time in the event of calamitous breakdown. It will also greatly enhance surveillance, and this will facilitate the regular maintenance of the line, therefore dramatically reducing the chance of a disaster.
You will be wise to consider terrain stability too. Consider precipitation in all its forms – ice, snow, and rain. You should give at least as much consideration to rock, which, as we all know, tends to be highly unpredictable and surprisingly mobile around here.
In making your final recommendation, throw a sop to Enbridge, and consider cost. After all, making a profit for their shareholders is vital for Enbridge.
Now I may have missed some criteria in my list, add your own, if you want. Cover up the bottom of this column below this paragraph and mull. When you’re done, lift your hand an see if your route matches mine.
OK. Time for the what the reality shows call The Reveal.
Did you choose Highway 16?
If you didn’t, let me tell you why I think running the dual line along the Highway 16 comes closest to meeting our vital criteria.
Maintenance and surveillance are a piece of cake along the highway. In the event of a spill you have guaranteed road access. Moreover, very few trees would need to be knocked down. That’s already been done. The right-of-way already exists. I concede that many rivers will be crossed, but no more than those Enbridge proposes to cross on their preferred route, and on Highway 16 those crossings already have bridges.
Yeah, I know, you’re going to argue that the highway isn’t safe. I know that there was a mud slide just west of Legate Creek that crossed the highway that almost killed two people, and that that slide slide was a harbinger of the massive rock slide that carried the top of a mountain to the valley floor two years later, wiping out the highway and killing a couple from Prince George who were unlucky enough to be in its path.
Those of you old enough to remember the Great Fall Flood of ’78 will scoff at my claims of safety and remind me that that event took out every bridge from Terrace to Hazelton save for the one over the Zymoetz River and. But wait. I’m not saying that Highway 16 is safe. I’m saying that it is the safest route. Big difference.
The route proposed by Enbridge will cut through the most unstable land in Skeena. High elevations beneath sharp peaks high in the mountains where avalanches of rock and snow capable of smashing a pipeline to bits are commonplace, and where clouds, snow packs, and subzero temperatures in the winter make response to a rupture impossible. So, if madness prevails, and the pipe line goes ahead, choose Highway 16 say I.