The inadequate oil spill response system is a growing concern that puts the entire B.C. coast at risk, according to a Sto:lo leader from Chilliwack.
The bungled cleanup of a fuel spill on the Fraser River in Mission back in March is casting some doubt now on any claims of a “world-class” response on the part of provincial officials.
“If the recent spill from a sunken vessel near Mission is any indication, clearly we do not have a world class spill response system,” said Ken Malloway, co-chair of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, and Grand Chief of Sto:lo Tribal Council.
The Fisheries Alliance supports 22 First Nations from Tsawwassen to Yale, including several Chilliwack-area Sto:lo communities.
It was an old fishing boat that ended up submerged in the Fraser River in March. In the weeks that followed, public concern escalated as efforts were hampered by an apparent inability to quantify the spill, as officials said it was unknown how much fuel was contained in the vessel.
It was also unclear which government agency was responsible, and what the responsibilities of the vessel owner were. Poor communications were also a factor.
“In light of this, the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline seems premature and ill-advised,” he said.
The B.C. government cleared the project in part because of the condition for the “world class spill response” had been met, but in reality it is not there yet, he said.
First Nations have long-term interests in sustainable development that values ecosystem protection, and need to be involved waterway decision-making, monitoring and risk management, including spill response, said Malloway.
“The free, prior and informed consent 0f First Nations must be sought while developing a spill response regime,” since it affects the protection of lands and waters.
It is now left to the NDP to deal with the increased risks that southern B.C. faces due to the clearance of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, without an adequate system in place, he argued. Construction of the pipeline twinning is scheduled to start in September.