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Pipeline spill would put 34 parks at risk: study

Apr 27 2012

Dozens of parks and protected areas in B.C. would be at risk of oil contamination if there was a spill from the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, says a peer-reviewed paper to be published later this year in Natural Areas Journal.

The paper, written by a team of scientists from Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the University of Victoria and the University of Calgary, found that a spill could affect parks hundreds of kilometres away from the pipeline.

"We wanted to raise awareness that, when you look at a map, the pipeline is small in relationship to the province, but a much larger footprint could be affected," said lead author Christina Service, a Raincoast biologist and graduate student at UVic.

Although the pipeline would not cross any parks, two are within 50 metres. Most are at risk because the 670-kilometre B.C. portion of the pipeline includes 591 water crossings, 532 of which bear fish, researchers found.

"The way this oil can be transported to downstream parks is the abundance of water crossings," said Chris Darimont, Raincoast science director and Service's supervisor at UVic. "We found the Fraser River watershed, with the most economically valuable salmon runs, contains the most parks at risk."

Altogether, 34 parks and protected areas could be at risk from a spill, the study found.

The paper has been given to B.C. Parks to help the province decide where spill cleanup equipment would be most useful should a federal review panel, which is hearing submissions and is expected to make a decision next year, give Enbridge the go-ahead.

Environment Ministry spokesman Suntanu Dalal said the ministry would review the report "in due time."

The proposed pipeline would transport about 79 million barrels of oil daily from Alberta to Kitimat, where it would be pumped onto tankers for export to Asian markets.


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