Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lax Kw'alaams releases Science Report related to Lelu Island

The Lax Kw'alaams First Nation has
released the findings from a Report
related to Lelu Island and Flora Bank
A string of documents released this week by the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation provides the latest viewpoint from the community when it comes to the issues of Lelu Island and Pacific NorthWest LNG's plans for it.

And after a quick read through of the flow of information of the last few days, you might get a sense that when it comes to Lelu Island and Flora Bank, officials at Lax Kw'alaams are on a very different page than those at Pacific NorthWest LNG, the proponent of the LNG Terminal near Port Edward.

The week's reading list also offers up some indication that the progress of engagement by the provincial government with Lax Kw'alaams when it come to the giant industrial project, may not be quite as forward moving as that observed by BC LNG Minister Rich Coleman earlier this month.

Such topics as the need for a social licence, the nature of Lax Kw'alaams Traditional laws and the importance of the Flora Bank to the fishery were key among the many observations made over the last five days.

The majority of the information from the end of the week, made frequent references to the details of a Science report delivered by team tasked by the Lax Kw'alaams government. With the focus of that report designed to review the nature of Lelu Island and the impact on the eco system of the Flora Bank estuary of development proposed for the immediate area.

The final four concluding comments from the Lax Kw'alaams commissioned Science Report, deliver perhaps the harshest criticism of the plan for an LNG terminal in the area, with the authors stating that there is considerable risk  to Skeena salmon and their fisheries, as well as the observation that the proponent's proposal disregards science, and risks to fish population health and Aboriginal rights.

To get the complete picture however, we have to go to the first a document of the week from Monday, which provided some background into recent events related to the Lelu Island situation when it comes to the proposed development by Pacific NorthWest LNG and the nature of the exploratory work currently under way in the region.

As well, that update included a comment related to the current occupation of Lelu island by some residents of the community.

The update provided four main focus points:

An opening comment stating that the Lax Kw'alaams government is not in active negotiations with Pacific Northwest LNG.

On the theme of the current occupation of Lelu Island, the statement notes it is a legitimate activity that is supported by many in the community.

As for engagement with Pacific Northwest LNG, the statement further notes that Pacific NorthWest LNG did not supply the community with a comprehensive project description or with the scope of their planned work. 

As well Lax Kw'alaams suggests that Pacific NorthWest LNG does not understand the concept of social licence on Lax Kw'alaams' territorty even after two and a half years of dialogue.

The first information statement closed with a call for the Lax Kw'alaams community to show solidarity in the face of external pressure from government and industry.

The full review of Monday's statement can be found here.

Next came some background on Thursday that highlighted the the key results that the Lax Kw'alaams Science team had delivered as a result of their study on the Flora Bank region.

That report was compiled by the Lax Kw'alaams Science Team, with Charmaine Carr-Harris, a biologist with the Kispiox based Skeena Fisheries Commission and Jonathan W. Moore an associate professor at Simon Fraser University the authors of the document.
Some of the background from the
report highlighted the importance
of the Skeena river to the fishery

It focused on the habitat of the Flora Bank area and its importance to the fishery noting that the Flora Bank supports at least 40 salmon populations that come from the traditional territories of at least 10 First Nations.

Their review also noted concerns that the authors have when it comes to risks to salmon that they found through a review of the environmental assessment provided by Pacific NorthWest LNG, with the authors noting that the conclusion of the energy company that the project would have no impacts on salmon, is not the same conclusion that they have determined through their report.

The final four conclusions to that overview include:

Fisheries scientists have known for decades that the Flora Bank region is particularly important habitat for salmon. Federal and provincial fisheries scientists identified the area a critical salmon habitat and industrialization has historically been avoided due to environmental risks.

Our data shows Flora Bank does not represent typical salmon habitat. In fact, the Flora Bank-Lelu Island area consistently had the highest abundances of juvenile salmon across multiple years of sampling. Using the standardized sampling techniques, catch rates for juvenile coho, Chinook and sockeye were more than twice as high in this region.

Eelgrass habitat in Fora Bank supports vastly more salmon than any other eelgrass habitat within this region of the estuary. Based on our data, the proposed destruction of eelgrass habitat by PNW LNG poses huge risks to salmon populations. Furthermore, our research makes it clear that planting eelgrass elsewhere will almost certainly fail to mitigate these impacts.

PNW LNG has stated that juvenile salmon are simply swimming through the Flora Bank area, and not feeding and residing in this habitat.  If this is the case, PNW LNG may be less likely to have adverse impacts on salmon. However, we discovered not only are juvenile salmon actively feeding and residing in the Flora Bank area, some are residing for several weeks in this habitat. What this means is any changes to the Flora Bank ecosystem would likely impact the young salmon feeding there.

The Science Report itself is a five page document, it was released on Friday and explains the methods used by the Lax Kw'alaams Science team and their observations related to the Skeena watershed.

They outline the nature of the regional population patterns of Salmon, their residence in the Flora Bank estuary and the genetics of the marine life in that region as well as a review of some of the pathways of risk associated with the proposed LNG terminal for the region.

The conclusions to the Science Report highlights the four major themes from their review:

The PNW LNG project is proposed for a location (Flora Bank) that is especially important for salmon from throughout the Skeena River.

Because of its poor site choice, the PNW LNG project poses significant and unacceptable risks to Skeena salmon and their fisheries.

The proponent has failed to adequately assess the risks to fish and fisheries and has not presented scientific evidence to support their claims that fish populations will not be harmed.

The proponent's current proposal disregards science and risks to fish population health and Aboriginal rights.

You can review the Key Findings of Flora Bank report here, while the Science Results compiled can be reviewed here.

To this point, there has been no reaction or comment from Pacific NorthWest LNG related to the release of the community update, nor of the key points and full Science report released byv the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation.

Earlier in the week, representatives from Pacific NorthWest LNG had delivered an update on their proposed terminal project to Prince Rupert City council, you can review that presentation here.

There is no indication from any of this week's information from Lax Kw'alaams as to how much, if any, of their study and review of the Lelu Island and Flora Bank area has been submitted as part of the CEAA environmental review of the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal.

That Federal review is expected to deliver its final comments sometime this year, or early in 2016.

The report and associated information released this week may however be of some use when it comes to the current efforts of the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation to seek title over Lelu Island.

What the progress may be when it comes to those efforts, was not part of of the release of information from this week.

For more background on items of note from Lax Kw'alaams see our archive page here.

For further information on the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG terminal at Lelu Island see our project archive page here.

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