Pipelines and wild salmon?

The other day I had a post on Enbridge’s slick-up in Michigan with some reflection on the propaganda that Enbridge has been pumping out (pardon the pun) in northern and central B.C. Today there is a blog post on the Tyee website regarding Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project and concerns mounted from the Morice River, near Smithers and Houston, B.C.

… According to the project plan, the double pipeline will follow the Morice river west of Houston, B.C. for about 32 kilometres before crossing at Kilometre 60, a stretch which… is prime habitat for juvenile fish.

Enbridge spokesman Alan Roth told The Tyee that the pipeline company has made “hundreds of adjustments” to the route, “based on that very kind of concern.”

When asked if the Michigan spill that happened this past Monday will affect the way the Gateway pipeline is constructed, Roth responded that, “[the] engineering and technology people have nowadays for designing pipelines has advanced considerably over the decades.”

The Michigan pipeline was constructed in the late 1960s, Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Bob Curran told the CBC, and weakness from aging caused that particular rupture.

Two points I pondered after reading this:

1. who the heck is the Energy Resources Conservation Board?

A web search suggests: “The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) serves Albertans as an agency that regulates the province’s energy resources.”

To ensure that the discovery, development and delivery of Alberta’s energy resources┬átake place in a manner that is fair, responsible and in the public interest.

Uh, huh…

2. Has the “engineering and technology people have nowadays for designing pipelines” advanced so considerably over the decades that somehow we have eliminated “weakness from aging” in metal pipelines?

Come on… I’m sure that metal engineering has advanced since the 1960s, but how much? Maybe a pipeline will last twice as long — tops?

We still scrap space shuttles and fighter jets after some time — granted they are subjected to greater forces… however these are some of the most advanced metals and materials on the planet.

And, gee… look how well our engineering technology has advanced to deal with the Gulf of Mexico?

Is there a parallel here, maybe?

The 1979 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was in about 200 feet of water and took months upon months to cap. The spill this year in the Gulf was in a more isolated area of the sea bottom (several thousand feet of water) and technology was not all that “advanced” to deal with the issue — and now the consequences will ensue for a generation or so.

The Michigan spill from the Enbridge pipeline occurred in a populated area and thus was noticed quite quickly.

Michigan River (Gazette / Jonathon Gruenke)

Notice the paved road, cars parked, people wandering…








The Morice River is just a little more isolated…

Morice River (from Back 40 Canoe)

And as is the case with so many “spills” the issue is not always aging pipe and infrastructure… but human error. Is 32 km of oil pipeline proximity and a river crossing worth the risk on the Morice?

I suppose that will be for northwestern and north-central BC communities to answer to…

If you’re interested the Pembina Institute completed a report in the fall of 2009: Pipelines and Salmon in Northern British Columbia.

(Curiously, the author Dr. David Levy is now the Chief Scientific Advisor for the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River Sockeye)

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