Sacred Headwaters named second most endangered water system

  • Apr. 27, 2011 6:00 a.m.

The sacred headwaters that feeds the Nass, Stikine and Skeena rivers has been identified by the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia as B.C.’s second most endangered rivers for 2011.

This is the 19th year the council has published the B.C.’s Most Endangered Rivers report that looks at the issues facing our rivers and threats to their ecological health.

The Kettle River, in the southern interior, was identified as the number one most threatened river due to new water extraction proposals near its source. Already, the report states, the river is suffering from excessive water withdrawals, so unless greater measures are taken this river may never recover, foreshadowing what many other streams in the region will face in the face of climate change.

The sacred headwaters came in second. The issue facing it is the proposed coal bed methane extraction plan that Canada Shell has in the area.  If approved, the project would see wellheads, roads and pipelines across a 400,000 hectare tenure.

Concerns the council had with this project include the likelihood of altered drainage patters and increased siltation, and waste water may be generated.

There is a moratorium for projects such as these in the region, however that moratorium ends in 2012.

Some groups, such as ForestEthics, have stepped out against the project for its environmental impact.

“Shell’s coalbed methane project will create industrial havoc on the landscape,” ForestEthics’ Senior Conservation Campaigner Karen Tam Wu said. “This is not how we should be treating British Columbia’s most precious resources: our wilderness, our salmon, our waters and clean rivers.”

While they applauded the government’s decision to extend the moratorium to 2012, it has created a period of uncertainty, with this issue dragging on for longer than necessary, Wu said.

“We need clear movement towards a permanent solution,” Wu said.

Third on the list was Peace River for the Site C Dam, and fourth was the Fraser River for the 18th time in 19 years. Concerns with the Fraser this year are development pressures between Hope and Mission.

The Morice River is also on the list, holding the number six position due to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

The report is available on the council’s website, www.orcbc.ca.

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