Oil Spill on the Northern BC Coast
It only takes ONE mistake!
Not If. When!
It is not the matter of ‘IF’ a super tanker, a behemoth of the seas 350 metres long and 60 metres wide, will accidentally discharge bitumen in Northern B.C. waters, it is the proverbial WHEN. Regardless of how well both Enbridge and the Canadian Government prepare for the inevitable, vast coastline areas will be effected – for decades to come as witnessed at Valdez on Prince William Sound. Many species of wildlife and marine life will be lost, many of them forever.
Enbridge proposed oil tanker route through Douglas Channel, in the very heart of the Great Bear Sea, is total insanity. A proposal by a corporation without any conscience what-so-ever toward the environment or ecology or the peoples who inhabit the area. Douglas Channel: It’s more than just a map.
Steven Greenaway, Enbridge vice-president of public and government affairs, has stated, “If we did not believe that the movement of petroleum goods could be done safely, either in a pipeline or by vessel, we would not have proposed the project.” “Enbridge has a detailed and professionally developed Marine Safety Plan which states that through a combination of double-hulled tankers and high marine standards including escort tugs and third-party tanker inspections, risks will be mitigated. The marine plan also calls for a massive investment to improve the first-response capability along our coast.”
Mitigated – made less severe or painful, lessened in force or intensity.
“Risks will be mitigated.” Sorry, that is not good enough. There is no mitigation in the event of a dilbit bitumen spill on the B.C. North Coast. None of the “mitigations” Enbridge has outlined will be of any consequense or aid in any way to lessen the chances of an oil spill from a super tanker in the Douglas Channel route Enbridge has proposed. One Mistake! -One Miscalculation! -One Error in Judgement! – and it is near total annihilation for the ecology and natural economy of the entire North Coast.
Meet Caamano Sound-Part 1: Shorelines to Orca – Life on the Edge
This particular slideshow introduces the importance of forage fish to the greater coastal ecosystem all the way up to the top of the food web, orcas and humans, and how an oil spill would impact it all.
All photos and sounds were taken and recorded in Caamano Sound, from along the proposed tanker routes. Enjoy meeting Caamano Sound! Stay tuned for more! Pass on the link!
Please note that submissions to the Joint Review Panel for the Northern Gateway Project are no longer accepted, letters to your Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister and/or other Government Ministers are always a good method to show disapproval of allowing tankers into this pristine environment.
Both Enbridge and the Canadian Conservative Government under Stephen Harper are willing to sacrifice the British Columbia North Coast for the sake of exporting Tar Sands Bitumen to China and other parts of Asia.
Double hull tankers sound like the answer to oil spills caused by grounding but, a double hull is only effective in low impact, slow groundings on sandy beaches or sand reefs. The immense size and moving weight of a loaded super tanker makes double hulling of no consequence on rocky shores or reefs which of such is the topography of the B.C. North Coast. Double hull tankers are also more susceptable to leakage because of the difficulty and costs to inspection of the inner hulls. It has been predicted (Regulation 13G of Annex I to MARPOL 73/78 in April 2001) that in a few years time there will be massive oil leaks from double-hull tankers as the maintenance of a double-hull is more difficult than a single-hull, and there is also a problem with gas build up between the two hulls making regular inspections of the vessels even more important.
Enbridge states that 3rd party tanker inspections will be mandatory. Who will be paying for these month long, yearly inspections? Where will they take place and by whom? Will there be an independent Canadian overseer to these inspections? If not, can they be trusted?
We all remember the Costa Concordia which hit a rock and sank off the coast of Italy. The Costa Concordia had a double bottom, both skins were breached and the ship flooded and sank. The main purpose for double hull construction is that the tanker can be made to carry more crude, they have more ballast to keep the ship afloat.
Enbridge’s Steven Greenaway states that, “Enbridge’s marine plan intends that all vessels be tethered to powerful state-of-the-art super-tugs (“tractor tugs”) that would, in the event of a malfunction or emergency, be able to maintain control and safety of the tanker. The VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers -Super Tankers) would be tethered all the way to open water at the end of Douglas Channel. In addition, all crude carriers docking and departing would be helped by harbour tugs”.
It is obvious to any mariner that the intention to use tractor tugs tethered fore and aft is a statement meant to placate the public and has very little to do with added safe navigation of the super tankers. These super tankers, at 3 1/2 football fields long, need a tug to help steer the ship. They are unable to turn short enough to navigate much of the route themselves especially at slow speeds. If the super tanker were to lose power or steerage or get into difficulty of any sort, anywhere along the route through Canadian waters, from Cape St. James through Hecate Strait and inward to Douglas Channel, there is very little the tethered tugs could do to keep the tanker off the rocks. Any ship, any vessel in these waters is totally at the mercy of the tides and winds.
The cruise ship Carnival Triumph lost power off the coast of Mexico Feb 10, 2013, due to a fire in the engine room. After two days, the largest, most powerful tug in the Gulf of mexico along with 3 other tugs began the tow of the stricken vessel to Mobile Alabama. The tow took 3 full days. At one point off the tip of Louisiana, they were actually going backwards due to a 2 hour spell of 25-knot winds buffeting the ship. At the entrance to the Port of Mobile, it took approximately 6 hours, in calm seas, to aline the ship correctly with the channel to enter port. That was with four tugs.
All the Carnival Triumph’s troubles and ordeal took place in calm waters. To tow a super tanker to safety in the seas off Northern BC, where 25 knot winds are commonplace with most daily afternoon channel winds are funnelled to much higher velocities. Where it is normal for 10 meter seas to crash onto the shores on the coast along with a perpetual 3 knot tidal current, in many places more, to hamper navigation further. Towing a super tanker to safety? Impossible!!
The statement, “In addition, all crude carriers docking and departing would be helped by harbour tugs”, that is true with all ships. Not a safety factor Enbridge came up with. Every ship in every port requires harbour tugs for docking.
Enbridge is claiming an increase in modern navigational equipment on the tanker routes. It is not the navigation equipment that is the concern. It is the weather, it is the currents, the tides and the shear immense size of these super tankers attempting to navigate channels which are challenging even to much smaller ships. Because of their huge mass, tankers have a large inertia, making them very difficult to steer. A loaded supertanker even with escort help in a 3 knot current could take as much as 4 kilometers and 20 minutes or more to come to a full stop, if full stop is at all possible in a tidal current. Any vessel which is unable to hold stable position in a channel will end up on the rocks, disaster for an oil tanker.
A loaded supertanker travelling at 5 knots has a turning diameter of about 2 kilometers, which is nowhere near enough turning ability to self navigate the proposed route. Steerage tugs are needed to make the “S” turn at the north end of Gil Island, between Promise Island, Farrant Island and out past Fin Island. Tugs will also be needed to steer the 90 deg. turn at the south end of Campagna Island and then navigate the countless rocks lining the channel through the entrance at Caamano Sound called the Estevan Group.
“The marine plan also calls for a massive investment to improve the first-response capability along our coast.” Two questions arise from this Enbridge statement. 1st. If the tanker travel through these channels was as safe as they claim, why then is the need for massively improved first-response capability other than it makes good PR? 2nd. First-response capability is not containment, nor is it clean-up nor is it liability.
The plan calls for the escort tugs to carry containment equipment on board. Also two containment equipment stations along the tanker route. All this is well and good for surface spills for a tanker carrying regular or sweet crude. A super tanker carrying heavy dilbit bitumen is a totally different matter. Modern Super Tankers have a capacity of 500,000+ DWT. It would take only 1% to 2% of that cargo spilt in a grounding to contaminate the entire BC North Coast.
First off, when the tanker with a draft of 25 meters hits a rock, the leak will occur 20 meters or more below the surface. Because bitumen is relatively the same density as water, it will not rise to the surface immediately. The currents will carry the leaked bitumen down stream, undetected for many hours, possibly days. Containment will be impossible. Containment booms will be useless. Within 1 hour of the mishap, the contamination will have travelled up to 4 Kilometers down current carried by the 3 knot tide. Within 24 hours, 1 day, an area 50 kilometers across will be effected by dibit crude, most of it near the bottom of the channel and gradually seeping to the surface. Within 3 days the entire B.C. North Coast, from Dixon Entrance to Pine Island could be contaminated with black sticky crude. One tanker, one mishap, one spill, will become the largest oil disaster in area of contamination, ever, world wide.
Dilbit bitumen is harder to remove from waterways than the typical light crude oil. While most conventional oils float on water, much of the dilbit sank beneath the surface. Submerged oil is significantly harder to clean up than floating oil: A large amount of oil still remains in the Kalamazoo River riverbed near Marshall, Michigan where an pipeline leaked in July 2010.
When the inevitable oil spill does happen: Gone are the several oyster beds many First Nations rely on. Gone are the clam digging beaches along the Douglas Channel. Gone are the two herring spawning grounds off the Douglas Channel. Gone is the Kermode bear, also known as a “spirit bear” on Gribbell and Princess Royal Islands, where the bears, especially the cubs like to feed on mussels on the shores. See: “Spirit bears, salmon, and the world that connects them” Gone is the krill from the Hecate Strait and along with them the fin whales and many humpback, also the seals and sea lions. The sea otters will no longer be able to feed on urchins in the kelp beds which populate the north coast.
This area around Douglas Channel is the breeding grounds of many species of sea birds which depend upon a pristine coast line for existance. The entire population of northern bald eagles could die from eating oil contaminated food. Within the area of Douglas Channel, a major BC fjord, are over 100 bays, inlets, coves, and some 25 BC Marine Parks, Protected Areas and Heritage Conservancies.
Meet Caamano Sound-Part 2:Northern Resident Killer Whales
“Presenting the “Meet Caamano Sound” project! This is a series of informative slideshows geared at showcasing and raising awareness about an awe-inspiring and little-known region of BC’s North Coast, called Caamano Sound, which is also being proposed as a major oil supertanker route for the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal.
This particular slideshow introduces the importance of Caamano Sound to the Northern Resident Killer Whale population, and how the proposed oil tanker traffic could impact them.
All photos and sounds were taken and recorded in Caamano Sound, from along the proposed tanker routes. Enjoy meeting Caamano Sound! Pass on the link!”
See “Peter O’Neill (September 8, 2011). Harper backs off from initiative that threatens opposition to B.C. pipeline, Vancouver Sun.
“The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA: pronounced pin-SEE-ma) is one of five Large Ocean Management Areas (LOMAs), areas of high ecological, social and economic importance, that have been identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) as priority regions for marine planning as part of Canada’s Oceans Action Plan.
After years of work by conservation groups, the fishing sector, tourism outfitters, First Nations, scientists and coastal residents, the Government of Canada finally embarked on the PNCIMA marine planning process in 2010. The goal was to develop a plan to conserve this relatively undeveloped region, while fostering sustainable economies on the coast, which promised to make Canada a world leader in marine conservation.
The purpose of the PNCIMA planning process is to ensure a healthy, safe, and prosperous ocean area by engaging all interested parties in the collaborative development and implementation of an integrated management plan. The goals of the PNCIMA initiative include: healthy and resilient ecosystems, reduced inter-user conflicts, sustainable economies, and thriving coastal communities with strong cultural and economic ties to coastal and marine areas.
In September 2011 however, the federal government withdrew from an agreement that provided funding to support the PNCIMA process. They stated that the process was being “realigned” to better fit with timelines and to be consistent with ocean planning on the other coasts of Canada. Under this streamlined plan, funding for public consultation and independent science was no longer required.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has killed support for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA) set up to monitor the ocean on the northern BC coast, while at the same time killing a plan to ban export of bitumen to countries with poor environmental records.
Then there is the matter of liability. Who will do the clean-up? Who will pay for clean-up? Who will compensate those who will lose their livelihood due to an oil spill?
BP spent $14 billion in the Gulf coast region cleaning up the spill with another $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the Gulf oil Deepwater spill and another amount, possibly 10 billion for restoration work. Cleanup workers attracted by their civic duty were unaware at the onset that in addition to the massive toxic exposure caused by the release of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, exposure to the hazardous chemicals used in the subsequent cleanup has harmed workers who have allegedly suffered health problems related to the cleanup operations such as: Skin conditions and serious outbreaks of rashes, Respiratory problems, Chronic eye infections, Problems of the ear, nose, or throat. These conditions were outlined in a report called “Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?” which was released April 19, 2013 by the Government Accountability Project.
$14 billion won’t be enough to clean-up even a minor spill on the B.C. North Coast. It is much harder to clean oil off rocks than sandy beaches. Who will be left liable for the costs? The Gulf BP disaster cleanup was aided by thousands of volunteers turning out daily in the fight to restore their coastline which is almost all accessible by land. 491 miles (790 km) of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were contaminated by oil for a total of 1,075 miles (1,730 km) had been oiled including river inlets and islands off the coasts. An oil spill in the Douglas Channel, the center of B. C.’s North Coast, could easily soil triple that area of shoreline within this archipelago of coastal islands and inlets, near all of which is only accessible by water.
There will not be a large Coast Guard contingent of 30 ships and 1000 men and women prepared and ready to help. There will not be a 2000 strong Home Guard army at hand with equipment, helicopters and vehicles to deliver supplies and co-ordinate the clean-up. There will not be 10,000 local volunteers willing to pitch in to support the clean-up effort and help save wildlife and restore beaches.
Even if there was never a super tanker accident in the Douglas Channel, Caamano Sound, Hecate Strait shipping lane, just the matter of 400 super tankers per year loading a cargo of heavy oil and refueling, will bring an eventual end to most of the ecosystem in the area. Although it is possible to transfer heavy crude oil onto a tanker ship without a mishap and it is entirely possible to refuel a ship at port without spilling any bunker fuel, as the shoreline and waters around every busy port in the world will testify, accidents do eventually happen. Acumatively, these ‘accidents’ spread oil pollutants to an ever widening area. Once a slick of oil flows out to the main channel, overnight it will spread 50 kilometers.
It only takes a sheen of oil on the surface to kill an oyster bed or the sea otters which raft together on the suface each night. It only takes a sheen to kill off the crab or shrimp spawn floating on the surface each spring. It only takes a sheen to destroy the herring spawn. Destroy the herring spawn and by consequence destroy the coho and chinook salmon fishery and in turn many orca will die off due to lack off food. likewise much of the seals and sealion population. Destroy 2 herring spawns and the whole herring industry in the area is over, never to return. It only takes a sheen of oil to seriously damage the health of the bears which feed on mussels and other sea life on the shore. The Gribbell Island Kermode bear habitat is only 20 kilometers down channel from Kitimat.
First Nations Have Most to Lose.
Most important consideration of all is the First Nations who occupy the territory of the Great Bear Forests and Seas. The Haida and Haisla who live on the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and the Kaigani peoples to the north.
The Tlingit Nations; Tagish, Teslin, Tahitan, and Tsetsaut who occupy the northern coastal region. Very spiritual peoples offering ceremonies in the name of Ganook who was the god and foundation of the earth. The four clans of the Tsimshian Nation, Gitksan and Nisga’a. occupiers of coastal and interior regions of the valleys of the Nass and Skeena rivers. Master carvers of totem poles, masks, house facades, feast dishes, canoes, storage boxes, helmets, cradles, and chamber pots each reflecting individual clan ownership in their decorative designs. Most extensive are the peoples of the Wakashan. This group includes Wet’suwet’en (Kitkatla), Heiltsuk (Bella Bella), Nuxalk (Bella Coola), and south to Nuu’chah’nulth (Nootka), Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl), Comox, Cowichan, Nitinat, and Songish.
Each First Nation, unique in it’s own language, ceremony and tradition but all collectively united by a bondship to the land and sea and the air, tied by ancestry to the ecology of the region. The people of the Northern Coast are bound by “Ashes to ashes, dust into dust” long before the Bible was written. They understand implicitly that survival depends upon a pure environment and a whole ecosystem. To spoil the environment or to damage or lose any part of the flora and fauna of their home land is to dishonor their ancestors and bring disgrace upon themselves and their heritage.
These are the people of the bear, of the salmon, the eagle and the raven. People of the otter and the seal. The great cedars offer strength in their lives. The spirits of their ancestors inhabit the lands and the waters and the breezes in the trees. United from their earliest ancestry to future hertitage of sons and daughters and beyond by natural ecology. Destroy any part and their fundamental rights to freedom of religion are taken from them, denied absolute. And that is contrary to the laws of Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which unites all Canadians and makes us all one, a great nation.
Can anyone imagine being told, “You can no longer have your religion”. “You can no longer believe in your God, in Jesus Christ. Or Allah or Visnu, or Raman or Budha or what ever God you worship.” Imagine being told your grandmother and grandfather never existed. Imagine being told that your children are no longer yours. You can never have or know any grandchildren. If any part of the North Coast be lost because of an oil spill. If we lose the salmon or the bear or the otter or any of the species. If the water and beaches become contaminated with oil, the First Nations of the North Coast lose, become detatched from their religion. Basically, lose themselves.
Canada is bound by all that is humane and decent, by universal law not to let that happen. We cannot take the risk. We cannot allow tanker traffic into the Douglas Channel. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project must never come to pass.