Concerns growing over Kispiox water usage

Concerns are growing about the amount of water being taken from the Kispiox River by a LNG company doing exploratory work.

Concerns are growing about the amount of water being taken from the Kispiox River by a LNG company doing exploratory work.

Shannon McPhail, executive director of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition said it is a very confusing situation because of the changes coming to the Water Sustainability Act and whether the Ministry of Environment or the BC Oil and Gas Commission is supposed to regulate the water use.

“What used to be illegal, is now legal, that is in the unregulated and unlicensed water withdraw, sucking up water from rivers and streams for oil and gas activity,” she said.

“The OGC gave a drilling permit to TransCanada to drill on both sides of the Kispiox River and told them they did not need a licence to suck up 5,000 litres of water a day, up to 150,000 over the duration of the drilling, which is unprecedented.”

McPhail said she contacted both the MOE and OGC to find out why this is allowed and both pointed her back to the other. She’s frustrated with the lack of answers.

“LNG is proposing to come to our watershed and they promised to be open and transparent and to work with communities but this is the exact opposite of that.”

McPhail’s father Gene Allen lives near the river where the drilling is taking place.

“I can’t legally put a pump into the river and water our garden and yet they have tickets to remove 5,000 litres per day out of the river. Right where they are removing water is where the steelhead spawn.”

Davis Sheremata, Spokesperson for TransCanada Corporation, said they have provided the OGC with Environment Management Plans. He said they are withdrawing freshwater from the Kispiox River but only a small amount.

According to the Water Act, TransCanada does not have to seek approval to withdraw water for its geotechnical activities because it is not located in a park, the diversion point is not less than five metres wide and it is not legally designated as sensitive or a stream subject to a temporary reduction order under the Fish Protection Act.

“OGC is the approving authority, and they carefully review each application to ensure it meets the appropriate standards before any activity can take place.” Sheremata said in an email. “Notification is also given to local aboriginal communities prior to commencement. In the cases of the Skeena and Kispiox drilling, we have the support of the Gitxsan houses on whose traditional territory the drilling is taking place.”

Near the Kispiox River, TransCanada has been given investigative permits to conduct borehole drilling. It is being done back from riverbanks, typically 50 to 70 metres and Sheremata said there is no impact on the rivers during testing.

He explained the drilling is being done to determine the technical feasibility of safely constructing a pipeline at each crossing.

The testing is being done for the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project that would deliver natural gas from a point near Hudson’s Hope to the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG facility on Lelu Island, within the District of Port Edward, if approved.

The project is currently being reviewed by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. 


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