Thursday, July 10, 2014

Presentation for Council puts a focus on Flora Banks

On Monday evening, Prince Rupert City Council members heard much on the theme of the impact of proposed LNG development at Lelu Island. As locally based scientist Dr. Barb Faggetter provided Council with a review of her recent findings into the Flora Banks region of the Skeena Estuary.

The presentation which spanned close to half an hour offered up some background on the importance of the Estuary to the salmon stocks of the North Coast, with Dr. Faggetter offering up a statistical review of the current state of juvenile salmon and their dependency on the shallow grass lands of the area known as the Flora Banks.

Following that brief overview of the ecosystem of the salmon in the region she switched her focus towards the theme of the impact that Industrial Development along Ridley and Lelu Island could have on the area.

With a particular concern addressed towards the large volume of dredging that could be required for the many industrial projects proposed for that area of the North Coast.

On the topic of the development of an LNG terminal on Lelu Island, Dr. Faggetter was clearly most alarmed about that particular possible development site.

She expanded on concerns regarding the Pacific Northwest LNG proposal, calling attention to some of her thoughts regarding the nature of some of the science that has been reviewed on the proposal.

She reviewed her observations from a recent tour of the Fora Banks region and outlined her concern over discrepancies between her findings and those that the Pacific Northwest tour had provided for in recent weeks.

One of the key points from her study is  her overview of the impact that the Pacific Northwest Project might have on the Flora Banks ecosystem.

She offered up a concern regarding the potential for high value loss of juvenile salmon habitat with a major focus on the damage that could be delivered to eel grass and fish habitat owing to sediment shifting during LNG ship berthing at the proposed site.

As for the overall impact of development in the region, Dr. Faggetter outlined how if all of the major projects that are proposed for the Ridley and Lelu island region were to move forward, the impact to the shoreline of the Flora Banks ecosystem would be at 57 per cent.

She said that considering the habitat value of the shoreline, the loss could be as much as 29 per cent or more of the current habitat of the juvenile salmon, a situation which she feared could be close to a tipping point for one or more of the species of the region.

Following her presentation, those Council members in attendance on the night (Councillors Thorkelson, Ashley and Kinney were absent) had opportunity to ask questions of their guest, with Councillor Garon leading off with an inquiry as to the nature of her funding for her work.

Dr. Faggetter outlined that the funding aspect of her studies came through a lot of volunteer work and assistance from different organizations.

And while she didn't mention those groups by name, her work  available from the Ocean Ecology website,  outlines that study on Juvenile Salmon Habitat and the Flora Banks region was supported by such groups as The Prince Rupert Environmental Society, the T Buck Suzuki Foundation and UFAWU-Unifor.

In a follow question, Mayor Mussallem asked her for an opinion as to what she would recommend as acceptable for development of LNG terminals in the region.

Dr. Faggetter observed that she was not anti-industry, but that in her opinion Lelu Island was not where an LNG terminal should be located.

She offered up the thought that she believed the BG Group proposal for Ridley Island was something that could be worked with and that Grassy Point would perhaps be the best option for LNG development, adding that anywhere away from the Skeena Estuary was preferable in her opinion.

The Mayor did call attention to the fact that the Pacific Northwest LNG project proposed for Lelu Island was based in the District of Port Edward, a statement that for the most part highlighted that the presentation to Prince Rupert Council was more of a backgrounder more than anything else.

He did ask if she had made her presentation to the District, or if they had asked her to appear to provide her overview of the site in question.

Dr. Faggetter advised that she had been in contact with the District regarding her study, but as of yet she had not yet been offered the opportunity to make her presentation.

You can review the full scope of her presentation to Council from Monday night through the City's Video Archive, it can be found from the thirty minute to just before the one hour mark.

For a look at some of the past work of Dr. Faggetter on the issues of the Flora Banks and Skeena River Estuary see our blog item from Monday.

You can also access her two reviews, with her examination of the Skeena Estuary available here and her Juvenile Salmon Habitat study available here.

We have more items of interest on the Pacific Northwest LNG proposal on our Archive page.

For a review of discussion points from Prince Rupert city Council see our Archive page here.

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