Oil Spill in the Great Bear Rainforest
An oil spill 200 feet wide and 2 to 5 miles long is staining Hartley Bay, British Columbia, very near the proposed tanker route for the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline, which would carry tar-sands oil from Alberta to markets in Asia. The spill was reported by the Gitga’at Nation, the First Nations residents of the area who are fierce opponents of the Enbridge project, which they fear would damage the commercial fishing and tourism jobs upon which they depend.
“If this spill is as big as the pilots are reporting, then we’re looking at serious environmental impacts, including threats to our traditional shellfish harvesting areas,” says Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga’at Nation. “We need an immediate and full clean-up response from the federal government ASAP.”
The current spill is apparently an upwelling of bunker fuel from Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski, a U.S. troop transport that sank in the area in 1946 and has never been satisfactorily cleaned up. Threats to the Great Bear Rainforest are explored in "Sound Off," a feature in the current issue of Sierra, by writer/photographer Aaron Teasdale. The Sierra Club and B.C. First Nations fear that sending 200 giant oil tankers annually through the same area would guarantee even more catastrophic spills in the future. As Teasdale reports,
The Sierra Club BC has joined the region's First Nations peoples and other local environmental groups in pointing out that an Exxon Valdez-style accident would decimate not only hundreds of miles of habitat but also the livelihoods of many coastal communities. "The clams, the cockles, the mussels, the crab, the urchins and cucumber, halibut, cod—all that I enjoy will be wiped away if there ever is an oil spill," Clifford Smith, a chief of the Haisla Nation, testified at a federal hearing in Kitimat in January.
For much more on this beautiful temperate rainforest, read Aaron's story.
Photo courtesy of the Gitga'at Nation
PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.