Rhodamine dyes exhibit bright, sometimes seemingly fluorescent, colour.

Researchers to flush Skeena with bright dyes for spill-response study

Kitsumkalum leading effort as rail transport of hazardous materials on the rise

Don’t panic if you see ribbons of brightly-coloured liquid flowing through the Skeena River this summer.

The Kitsumkalum Fish and Wildlife Operations Department (KFWOD) will be staining the river with non-toxic, biodegradable rhodamine dye to develop a spill response plan for train derailments in the Skeena watershed.

Knowing how a spill will behave will help KFWOD identify locations for caches of spill-response equipment between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

“Rivers are very difficult to protect. Oceans are a lot easier because it’s open water,” says Mark Biagi, KFWOD manager. “The lower Skeena has a lot of islands, a lot of meandering and a lot of grading on the bottom. We need to understand, if there is a derailment along the river, how do we protect the salmon, how do we best respond.”

With the help of the Kitselas, the Kitsumkalum spent a year creating a high-resolution map of the CN rail line from from Kitimat to Terrace, and Kitwanga to Prince Rupert. In Phase 2, Kitsumkalum identified all the areas of importance to salmon habitat. For Phase 3 KFWOD have engaged Northwest Hydraulic Consultants to create a workable model of the Skeena.

The dyes will be tracked by drones and a “battery of sensors” to digitally amplify the rhodamine’s presence. GPS-equipped sensors will also be tracked by satellite to map long-range impacts.

READ MORE: No health, safety risk after acidic spill into Columbia River: Teck

“We already know where the sensitive areas are, and now we can start looking at how to protect them,” Biagi says. “Where do we intercept the spill? How do we corral the spill, get it into an area we can manage it and clean it up?”

The first dye and sensor release will take place around July 2 near the bridge crossing of the Kalum River. The second will likely take place mid to late August in the Terrace area. The dyes will take about seven hours to dissipate and will be either yellow or red in colour.

The study will not impact fishery openings or other river activities, says Biagi.

KFWOD has been working with the provincial government on this project through the framework of a Geographic Response Plan program, and with the federal government through the Marine Protection Plan.

“The problem is, salmon habitat are federal jurisdiction and rivers are provincial jurisdiction. It’s a jurisdictional quagmire,” Biagi says. “What we’re doing is trying to prevent that from becoming the reason why we do nothing when a disaster happens.”

In addition to current volumes of hazardous materials carried to and from the coast, Vopak Pacific Canada is proposing to build a bulk liquid petroleum export facility on Ridley Island near Prince Rupert that will require an increase of 240 rail cars per day travelling through the area — 60 for liquefied petroleum gas and 90 for clean petroleum products, such as diesel or gasoline, and 90 for methanol.

READ MORE: Vopak expects 240 liquid gas-by-rail cars per day

Since the completion of the AltaGas propane export terminal in Prince Rupert, rail traffic is already increasing by up to 60 cars of propane passing through the watershed per day. That number may double if a second propane export facility in Kitimat, Pacific Traverse Energy, goes forward.

“We’ve been working very diligently to get the federal government to accept the fact that if a spill takes place on the Skeena, it’s going to end up in the estuary and marine environment,” Biagi says, adding CN Rail has been very cooperative in the project.

Once the study is complete, the Kitsumkalum will share their findings with CN Rail and both the B.C. and Canadian governments to develop a geographical emergency spill response strategy.

”We ask for the public’s patience and understanding as we carry out our study. There are no impacts while the study is taking place. Just a dramatic and temporary change in the colour of the river,” says Biagi.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rupert Raiders prove themselves the Apex competitors

Team had to battle the elements, in addition to their opponenets, at Apex Outdoor Tournament

Senior Boys Rainmakers charge into the new year with tourney win

Mix of high powered offensive and shutdown defence lead Charles Hays to victory

Cold snaps all weather records in Prince Rupert

Coldest day of the Year? No. Coldest Day of the decade? No. Coldest day of the century? Maybe…

Charles Hays fly to victory at Prince George Condor Classic

Junior Rainmakers soared through first two games to set up a dramatic final

Prince Rupert brings home bronze medal from Quesnel

All-West Glass Peewee Seawolves score overtime victory at Rep Tournament

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Most Read