I live at Summit Lake, which is on the Arctic Divide and the headwaters of the Crooked River which flows north into the Parsnip, Peace and eventually Mackenzie River. The proposed Enbridge pipeline would cross the Crooked River 25 km north of here just south of Davie Lake. There would be a pumping station at Bear Lake, the next community north of Summit Lake.
In 1990 and again in 1995 we had two pipeline breaks and explosions at Summit Lake. These were on the PNG line, which carries natural gas from the north, west to Prince Rupert. These were caused by stress corrosion cracking. The pipe was less than 40 years old. Apart from the loud noise and the rattling of windows and fear from nearby residents, the environmental damage was limited to gas emissions into the atmosphere. There was no ensuing fire. Imagine if instead of gas, this had been an oil pipeline. Our whole watershed could have been contaminated.
There was a serious oil spill into the Pine River in the Pine Pass in August of 2000. 1,000 cu m of oil spilled into the river. This was on a Pembina 12” pipeline and it contaminated Chetwynd’s water supply as well as fish bird and wildlife habitat. The clean-up cost $30,000,000.00 and people are still finding oil embedded in the rocks. The Enbridge line would be 36” so a similar spill would release about 10 times as much oil or bitumen.
Trumpeter swans winter on the Crooked River at the southern point of their migration from the Arctic. We have an abundance of loons, beaver, otters, ducks, song birds, fish, moose and bears. There used to be Arctic Grayling in the system but we never see them in the Crooked River any more and they are much diminished further north. We need to protect all this life but especially the threatened grayling, the iconic swans and loons and much more.
Climate change has wreaked havoc in our forests with the pine beetle devastation. Bear Lake used to be totally pine and now there are very few trees left. The dead trees fall down and many have fallen into the Crooked River. The sponge has also been lost from the forest floor so much silt finds its way into the river. Canoe navigation has become much more difficult as many log jams have formed, blocking the main river and causing it to split into several narrow channels. Last summer I was drawn into one of these log jams and lost my kayak and nearly lost my life as I struggled to haul myself up onto the log jam. We have since put up a sign advising that this stretch of river is no longer navigable.
The Crooked River is of historical importance. There is a 7 mile portage from the Fraser River to Summit Lake, along which goods were transported from the Pacific watershed to points north. It was important during the fur trade and serviced the Hudson Bay posts in the north. When the Highway was built, it ended at Summit Lake and from there goods were transported by boat, which were built at Summit Lake. Loaded river boats plied these rivers regularly. There is now a 10 HP restriction on the Crooked River to protect nesting areas and wildlife habitat. We don’t want all this to be destroyed by a potential oil spill.
My actions include running for election for the Green Party of Canada and speaking out about environmental concerns. I joined the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance at its inception and have been involved in creating awareness about the environmental concerns around the proposed Enbridge pipeline. I attend the information sessions organised by the pipeline companies at Summit Lake, which already has a Spectra and a PNG compressor Station and a third one has been approved for construction for Pacific Trails Pipeline, which will transport gas to Kitimat. The community has discussed an emergency preparedness plan in case of another disaster like the previous gas line ruptures. Personally, we conserve water, we heat our house and cook with wood. We grow and gather nearly all our own food. We have kept track of the date that the ice goes off Summit Lake since 1941 but we haven’t actually noticed a specific trend but the dates range from April 21st in 2010 to May 23rd in 1964.
Thank you for this opportunity to share our experiences and concerns regarding climate change relative to the proposed Enbridge pipelines.