The Root Word: ForestEthics Blog

Tankers in Turbulent Waters? Prince Rupert Boat Ride Shows What’s at Stake

Dec 20, 2012

As the Prince Rupert Enbridge hearings resumed with a focus on marine issues, we thought it was important to get the media out on the water. As we left Rupert harbour we heard stories of past freighter accidents, either due to weather or shallow waters, all with a local pilot on board.

We spotted two pods of humpback whales as our Metlakatla captains let us out toward Hecate Straight. Although only tails and sprays from spouts in the choppy waters, it was a great showing of the marine life on the coast. It wasn’t long before porpoises were following two metres from the boat.

Although grey and rainy, it was a calm day on the coast, but calm in Hecate Straight once we arrived meant heaving swells; the 24-foot tides that are ‘normal’ on the Northwest Coast make for a nauseating ride.

By the time we were in Hecate Straight where Enbridge’s proposed tankers will pass, most on the boat were feeling nauseous from the ‘calm’ waters. As we made our way back to the Port of Prince Rupert, we passed one of the coastal First Nations’ sustainable business ventures. Lines of buoys with over two million scallop seed plotted an inlet with operations to get underway next year. This has the potential to create 400 to 500 jobs on the North Coast.

Just to the north, the community of Metlakatla invested over $1 million last year in a 10-kilometre trail promoting recreation and cultural tourism for the area. In its first semi-season, the trail brought in 750 visitors, each paying $25 to walk this exquisite piece of coastline. Metlakatla Pass is a National Historic Site used for millennia by the Coast Tsimshian.

It’s the existing coastal economy and these new sustainable initiatives that will all be put at risk with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project.

Even after a short boat trip, in relatively calm waters, it’s easy to catch a glimpse of the rich marine life and existing sustainable economic initiatives, as well as the risks of an oil spill and rough weather that would make spill clean-up impossible.

As we left the hearings in Prince Rupert, we heard Enbridge VP Janet Holder claim on CBC radio that a tarsands spill is “easy” to clean up. Easy. This false, astounding comment (that the host had her repeat) just further diminishes Enbridge’s credibility. And if British Columbians have their way, we’ll never get to the stage where we need to cleanup Enbridge’s oil spills.

Nikki Skuce of ForestEthics Advocacy

By Nikki Skuce, Senior Energy Campaigner, ForestEthics Advocacy

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