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Letter to Minister Polak from Valhalla Wilderness Society re: Pipelines thru Prime Grizzly Protected Areas

Valhalla Wilderness Society

October 8, 2013

Hon. Mary Polak
Minister of Environment
PO Box 9049 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Phone: 250 387-1187, Fax: 250 387-1356
[email protected]

Re: Please Stop Natural Gas Pipeline route surveys and any Park Use permits in the Khutzeymateen Inlet-Kwinimass Provincial Conservancies (Protected Areas)

Dear Ms. Pollack:

There are now two natural gas pipeline companies with the same route being proposed through major grizzly bear protected areas on the BC North Coast that adjoin and are critical buffers to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary Class A Provincial Park. These are TransCanada Pipelines’ Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project (under Petronas) and Spectra Energy’s Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project. The latter company indicates that “up to two adjacent pipelines” might be built. Spectra states this about their proposed project and parks:

This Valhalla Society map shows the approximate route (red line) by TransCanada Pipelines Natural Gas (and most likely Spectra) through the Khutzeymateen-Kwinimass provincially protected areas:

As the Minister vested with the responsibility of protecting BC’s park system, and as the Minister who is one of the five member Ministers of the Cabinet LNG Working Group, the silence from your end has been deafening with respect to transgressions of the public trust and Park Act represented by ongoing pipeline surveys. According to a Vancouver Sun article (Sept. 6, 2013) one company (TransCanada Pipelines) has already been warned twice about “non-permitted access” to the environmentally sensitive area, and BC Parks is investigating a third possible transgression.

While we are pleased that BC Parks has taken a strong position on these violations by Pacific Northwest Gas, we strongly query the basic question as to why pipeline route surveys are being allowed through our protected conservancies, given that logging, mining and hydro-development are not allowed and these protected areas are being managed to the highest standards by BC Parks with the highest priority of the conservation of grizzly bears? 

We have been given to understand that these illegal pipeline field surveys by Spectra and TransCanada and the proposed routing through these major protected areas were/are being done with apparent secret endorsement from your Cabinet LNG Working Group as well as the Premier’s office. Given that Spectra has already been surveying their route through the Khutzeymateen-Kwinimass grizzly bear protected complex for over a year, why has your Ministry and government not made this invasion of our parks public knowledge – with a widespread public input process?

We would also like to ask you as the Minister vested in enforcing the Park Act: given that no public access including jet boats are allowed in the Khutzeymateen grizzly sanctuary, given that no commercial logging and mining are allowed in this complex of protected areas, and no aircraft flights are allowed within 500 m of land (except for one specific landing site for floatplane tourism access to bear viewing tour boats) that with such priority protection of the Khutzeymateen area grizzly bears, how is it that your government is now openly allowing two foreign-owned pipeline companies to promote and study a major gas pipeline route through these protected areas in the Khutzeymateen-Kwinimass complex?

Perhaps you may not be aware that hidden deep at the head of the remote Khutzeymateen fiord is the world-class Khutzeymateen grizzly bear sanctuary that received legislative protection as a Class A Provincial Park in 1994 after an exhaustive 9-year international battle with the timber industry. Today the Khutzeymateen is recognized as Canada’s premier grizzly bear sanctuary and bear-viewing area. Prince Phillip came for the official designation of the park. The grizzly bear population is quite unique in that it has also been protected from trophy hunting since 1982 by a large provincial no-hunting reserve. As a result of the province’s north coast land use plan (LUP) in 2006 and First Nations initiatives, three more large protected areas (conservancies) were added around the sanctuary, making it one of the most protected grizzly bear heartlands in western Canada. Some years later the Gitsee Tsimshian First Nation negotiated through the province’s G2G protocol two new conservancies to protect most of the Khutzeymateen Inlet. These protected areas thus represent a huge investment by society in leaving a lasting grizzly bear legacy for future generations. Thousands of people come from afar to safely view and photograph the famous protected Khutzeymateen grizzlies and this generates millions of dollars in tourism revenue to the BC economy. The BBC and others including the CBC Nature of Things have filmed major grizzly bear documentaries there. The Khutzeymateen area may be remote and hidden, but we can assure you that thousands of its followers will be joining us in a legal challenge and massive opposition to any pipeline route through these protected areas that represent one of Canada’s grandest grizzly bear legacies.  

We also ask you to please consider the following: 

  1. Promoting and allowing a new major utility corridor through a major wilderness complex of provincially protected lands will mean other utilities could follow such as Hydro transmission lines to power any LNG plant(s). Last year it as just Spectra with a now proposed twin pipeline studying this route to the coast — now it is two companies.

2. The construction and maintenance, including a proposed compressor station in the Kwinimass Conservancy, of the largest diameter (4 feet) pipeline proposed in Canada (TransCanada) would require a major industrial access road through the rugged coastal rainforest of the protected conservancies, with a permanent right-of-way width of up to 200 feet, as well as a staging area to construct the undersea 1.7 km section beneath the Khutzeymateen Fiord. Up to 50 grizzly bears use the marine foreshore here along the inlet and sanctuary estuary, supporting at least eight permitted commercial bear-viewing operations with major tourism values. The Khutzeymateen core grizzly population also depends on the adjacent conservancies and other surrounding habitats for their annual survival. (The adjacent conservancies and other surrounding habitats are crucial for the short- and long-term survival of the core Khutzeymateen grizzly population.)This includes ancient trees on the mountain slopes for winter denning. Having studied grizzly bears in the area, we can assure you that any pipeline project through the area will have significant, adverse environmental impacts such as on the grizzly bear population, despite any proposed mitigation methods — not the least being removal of large amounts of old-growth forests for 30-40 kilometres where a pipeline traverses the conservancies.

Just as one example of projected impacts to these protected areas, pipeline compressor stations planned to be built in the wilderness protected areas will create a permanent industrial presence including:

  •  Loss of night darkness due to flare stack.
  • Permanent noise due to gas-turbine engines.
  • Methane smog and other air pollution, especially during routine “blowdowns” (ventings) of the pipeline.
  • Risk of explosion and fire.
  • Constant industrial traffic on major access roads.

 These proposed developments if allowed will erode the ecological integrity of these major grizzly bear protected areas that are flagships of the BC Parks system. 

Allowing even surveys of major pipeline routes, not to mention your Ministry possibly granting research permits and approving eventual construction through these protected areas is a major violation of the public trust invested in your Ministry to uphold our world-class park system.  By allowing pipeline surveys to take place you are already setting a dangerous precedent for all of BC. It means no BC provincial park or protected area is safe from your government’s now rampant resource development policies. No park or conservancy, no matter how high its ecological values, will ever be safe from your development policies.

In conclusion, the Valhalla Wilderness Society now requests that you categorically uphold the law and protect the future integrity of the BC Parks system entrusted to you by taking a principled stand by stopping all proposed pipeline route proposals and surveys through these critical BC protected areas.  We request that you desist from issuing any Park permits for any pipeline surveys through the Khutzeymateen Inlet-Kwinimass Provincial Conservancies (Protected Areas) adjacent to the Khutzeymateen Class A Park Grizzly Bear Sanctuary or what we call the Khutzeymateen grizzly sanctuary protected area complex. We would like to remind you that any further ongoing pipeline surveys without permits, as well as the potential issuance by the provincial government of future survey permits, are a violation of Section 5 (3.1) of the Park Act that states that a park use permit cannot be issued for other purposes where such would inhibit or restrict the protected goals stated in the Park Act. Section 10 of the Park Act states that park use permits cannot be issued for logging, mining and most hydro-electric developments (except run-of-the-river near First Nations communities). Frankly, I learned just a short time ago of legal action being contemplated to demand, insure and order that the sections cited be obeyed.

 Again, we thus demand that your Ministry stop immediately all existing and further pipeline route planning and surveys through the Khutzeymateen-Kwinimass protected complex including ground and aerial, route surveys, biophysical inventory, ground drilling, and any other pipeline related surveys in these protected areas. Please stand up for our parks – they are not for sale!


Wayne P. McCrory, RPBio.

Bear Biologist.

Bears Matter Note: Pls consider writing a letter to save the Khutzeymateen!

cc. Premier Christy Clark
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Phone: 250 387-1715, Fax: 250 387-0087
E-mail: [email protected]

Hon. Steve Thomson
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
PO Box 9049 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Phone: 250 387-6240, Fax: 250 387-1040
E-mail: [email protected]

Hon. Naomi Yamamoto

Minister of Tourism and Small Business

PO Box 227  Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 1X4
[email protected]



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