Ministry of Energy and Mines

'It’s the New Wild West': Alaskans Leery As B.C. Pushes For 10 Mines in Transboundary Salmon Watersheds

Iskut

Long-held perceptions of Canada as a country with strict environmental standards and B.C. as a province that values natural beauty are taking a near-fatal beating in Southeast Alaska, where many now regard Canadians as bad neighbours who are unilaterally making decisions that could threaten the region’s two major economic drivers.

Fishing and tourism — each billion-dollar industries — are the lifeblood of Southeast Alaska, where glaciers sweep down into rivers home to five species of wild salmon and massive snow-covered peaks tower over fertile wetlands.

Tourism accounts for 10,900 jobs in the Alaska Panhandle and salmon fishing employs 7,300 people.

Air and water are the only ways into communities such as Juneau, the state capital, and almost seven million hectares, or three-quarters of Southeast Alaska, are within the Tongass National Forest, where industrial activity is limited.

But, upstream, in northwest B.C., there is a new-style gold rush with an unprecedented number of applications for open-pit gold and copper mines, some made viable by construction of the Northwest Transmission Line and all requiring road access.

Free Water for Fracking: B.C. Government Gives 20-Year Withdrawal Permit to Talisman

British Columbia is providing the gas industry with 78 million cubic meters of free water each year, according to a recent CBC article. That water, the equivalent to 31,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is used to hydraulically fracture, or frack, the Northeast portion of the province which is undergirded by a vast reservoir of unconventional gas. 

The B.C. government has recently added another 3.65 million cubic meters of water per year to that total by issuing an additional permit to Talisman Energy. The permit grants Talisman permission to withdrawal water from the Williston Reservoir, B.C.’s largest freshwater body, for 20 years. 

Historically, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) has granted short-term, temporary water withdrawal permits to the oil and gas industry, a process critics argued circumvented the environmental evaluation necessary for long-term permits. In this instance, Talisman has received one of the largest water withdrawal permits of its kind. 

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