Letter to the Editor: We must save Lelu Island

The proposed Pacific NorthWest / Petronas LNG project would deal a death blow to Skeena salmon and other wildlife if it were to proceed.

Editor:

The proposed Pacific NorthWest / Petronas LNG project would deal a death blow to Skeena salmon and other wildlife if it were to proceed.

Flora Bank, located adjacent to Lelu Island, is a fragile and critical habitat for approximately 279 million juvenile salmon (Dr. Barb Faggetter, Phd Oceanography, R.P. Bio). Eelgrass beds located on Flora Bank provide essential food and shelter for the young salmon as they transition from fresh to salt water, and for many other species, including herring, shellfish and waterfowl. If damaged, eelgrass habitats are extremely difficult to mitigate and restore. Flora Bank has 40 to 60 per cent of the eelgrass in the Skeena estuary.

Although Petronas has modified its plans to dredge Flora Bank, they plan to build a suspension bridge that will shade the light-sensitive eelgrass beds. Their proposed marine facility adjacent to Flora Bank, which would provide a berth for the 220 gigantic LNG carriers that would traverse the estuary waters per year, would require hundreds of pilings along Flora Bank, on shouldering Agnew Bank, that would also seriously risk fish habitat by changing erosion and deposition patterns. SO2 and NOx emissions from the LNG plant would cause acidification of vegetation, fish and wildlife.

Petronas plans to clear cut the island, the home of over 400 culturally modified trees, despite the fact that these trees are protected in B.C. by the Heritage Conservation Act. They play a significant role in the archaeological and historical record of Indigenous peoples.

Petronas claims that they are not doing any work on Flora Bank. However, the occupiers — the hereditary Lax Kw’alaams First Nation owners and their supporters — have witnessed drilling taking place directly on Flora Bank, and on Oct. 28, a crew dropped cement anchors on Flora Bank. The occupiers are not protesting; rather they are practicing their Aboriginal rights and title by asking trespassers to leave.

Besides being environmentally reckless, the Petronas LNG deal with the B.C. government is fiscally irresponsible. It exempts the corporation from taxes until their capital investment costs are recovered, at a cut tax-rate that provides an extremely low revenue benefit for B.C. taxpayers.

According to an International Energy Agency report, the Asian demand for LNG has dropped and so have LNG prices, reducing the viability of LNG projects. The industry also faces intense competition on the global market from the U.S. and Australia. If Petronas packs up and leaves, they will have left behind a mess, with impunity, and for nothing.

We need to put a stop to foreign corporations that rape the land, reap the profits and provide relatively few jobs in the bigger economic picture. For Lelu Isand, there is no time to waste. Thousands of people rely on the Skeena river and estuary for their livelihoods and cultural preservation. PNW LNG is a critical threat to Skeena fish and wildlife. We need to stop this project now, before irreparable damage is done.

Brenda Mark, Anne Hill

Northwest Watch