Great Bear TIS – partner post

After months of planning and a previous trip cancellation due to smoky skies from forest fires, it was great to see this LightHawk trip across the proposed Enbridge pipeline and tanker route come together. After days of coordinating Steven Garman and Neil Ever Osborne’s itineraries and logistics, and First Nations to have the opportunity to see their territories from an aerial perspective, there was an empty seat for me to jump into the plane. With freelance journalist Amanda Follett, we set out on a short tour from the Terrace/Kitimat airport.

We started off following the Kitimat River until we were in a narrow valley. Our GPS coordinates of the proposed pipeline route took us as far as Hoult Mountain which stands at 7,000 ft. at its peak. This is where Enbridge is planning on tunneling the pipelines through. The glaciers overhead and cascading waterfalls were magnificent – how could a tar sands pipeline be safely engineered through these massive mountains? And if there was an oil spill, how could folks get there quickly and with enough resources to actually clean it up? I doubt that they could.

This pipeline route has always seemed insane to many of us who live near it (whether because of the sheer number of wild salmon rivers it plans on crossing, or our knowledge of the mountainous and avalanche-prone terrain). This tour just reinforced that Enbridge cannot engineer its way out of risk on this one. If Enbridge spills oil nearly once a week in mostly flat, prairie land, what can we expect as it tries to tunnel here through these mountains?

Steven turned the plane around and we followed back out along the Kitimat River past the town to the tanker port. Kitimat has long been an industrial town with major aluminum and forestry factories. With the closing of Eurocan, the town is in need of some job creation. But pipelines and tankers bring few long-term jobs, and even fewer to local communities. A strong and growing grassroots community group formed the “Douglas Channel Watch” to oppose this project that brings too much risk and too little benefit to their community and all along the coast. The Haisla Nation has also come out opposed to Enbridge’s project, and, along with eight other coastal First Nations, declared a crude oil tanker ban in their traditional territories.

There are currently no oil tankers plying the rough waters of Douglas Channel and Hecate Strait. And in looking back as the plane turned around and the light hit the Channel beautifully, this trip confirmed that there never should be.