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Regulators probe complaint about sediment flow at CGL pipeline river crossing in northwest B.C.

Protestors say sediment can damage fish spawning grounds
Heavy equipment at work at Coastal GasLink pipeline crossing at the Clore River in northwestern B.C. (David Suzuki Foundation photo)

Inspectors from the provincial regulator overseeing the Coastal GasLink (CGL) natural gas pipeline project are scheduled to fly into the Clore River area today to look into complaints that sediment has flowed down the river from work underway to place the pipe across the river.

The in-person inspection by the Oil and Gas Commission follows complaints made by a group of Wet’suwet’en who oppose the project and the David Suzuki Foundation after an early January overflight of the work via helicopter.

Photos show extensive work on the banks of the Clore River as contractors first work to divert and pump waters from around the location where pipe is to be laid in a trench across the riverbed and then covered up.

The Wet’suwet’en and the Suzuki foundation allege that sediment produced can smother and damage fish spawning grounds.

“Provincial regulators are failing to hold CGL accountable,” said John Ridsdale who uses his Wet’suwet’en chief’s name of Na’moks. “It’s cheaper to pay the fines than to do the work properly.”

The Clore River runs into the Copper River which itself runs into the Skeena River near Terrace.

The federal fisheries department confirmed officers and biologists were at the location Jan. 13 but declined further comment.

In advance of today’s scheduled in-person visit, a Jan. 16 statement from the Oil and Gas Commission indicated it found no non-compliance issues from examining provided photos and water quality information.

“Our inspector is in communication with CGL’s onsite environmental staff and has reviewed current photography of the ongoing work and again found no issues of non-compliance,” the commission stated.

This is the second river crossing by Coastal GasLink to draw the attention of the Wet’suwet’en group, Gidimt’en Checkpoint, who oppose the 670-kilometre pipeline project as it passes through a section of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory in northwest B.C.

CGL pipeline in northwestern B.C. by TC Energy is being built to deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to an LNG Canada facility under construction in Kitimat.

Opposition had earlier been focused south of Houston where contractors are now progressing on drilling a pipeline tunnel underneath the Morice River.

That location has seen clashes between protesters, their allies and the RCMP who are enforcing a provincial supreme court order banning actions preventing pipeline work from carrying on.

Coastal GasLink has not commented directly on the statements by the Wet’suwet’en or the David Suzuki Foundation other than to say its work on the Clore River meets regulatory requirements.

“To date, Coastal GasLink has been inspected more than 500 times by regulators, with a satisfactory inspection rate of 90 per cent as reported by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, compared to the industry standard of 82 per cent,” the company said in a statement.

“We take every opportunity to improve on our track record of environmental protection, and we are committed to working with our regulators to do so.”

As of last year, the B.C. Environmental Assessment office has fined the company nearly $250,000 for a series of orders and warnings related to erosion control since the project started in 2019.

Aside from complaints about sediment, there’s even a difference of opinion about the ability of Wet’suwet’en to visit the location.

“We welcome the interest by Indigenous and local community members to ensure we are living up to the highest standards of environmental protection, and our team continues to offer safe access to site,” said Coastal GasLink.

The Wet’suwet’en group, however, says they have been denied access.

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About the Author: Rod Link

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