Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hello "Hyundai Republic", Goodbye Orcas!

Global TV in Vancouver, along with the BC pilotage authority, heralded the arrival of the 304-metre long container vessel Hyundai Republic to the Centerm terminal in Vancouver harbour today. Meanwhile, whale lovers wept silently in a corner at the thought of this 'behemoth', as the announcer so proudly described it, passing through Haro Strait and Boundary Pass, hard by the remaining, endangered southern resident killer whales which call these channels home.

The Hyundai Republic is said to be the second largest vessel to ever enter the port of Vancouver. If that weren't bad enough, we are informed ( 'warned' is perhaps a more apt term! ) that she is just one of five in her class, with all of them expected to make regular calls in future. Perish the thought, for:

The bigger the vessel, the more fuel she is likely to carry.
The biggger the vessel, the worse the smog situation in the Lower Mainland is likely to get.
The bigger the vessel, the louder the noise her engines and props are likely to make underwater, thereby interfering with whale echolocation.
The bigger the vessel, the bigger her wake.
The bigger the vessel, the harder it is to manoeuvre her in close quarters, and the longer it takes for her to stop in an emergency.
The bigger the vessel, the more trucks will be needed on local roads to bring her containers to and fro the terminal. The more trucks on the road, the more pollution in the air.
The bigger the vessel, the more roads and bridges will have to be built as part of the massive Gateway project in the Lower Mainland.

Suffice it so say, then, that the arrival of this monster of a ship is just another nail in the coffin of the southern resident killer whales. In the long run, they don't stand a chance against a giant like this. Maybe one of these icons of the Pacific Northwest will get impaled on the bow of the Hyundai Republic or one of its sister ships. I sure hope not. But the fact of the matter is that the arrival of this huge container ship signals the beginning of a new and frighening era in BC shipping. And when the mainstream news media engages in its customary boosterism upon the arrival of the first in its class, you know there is little hope in changing public opinion. In fact it got so bad that the TV journalist in question, Tony Parsons, urged his viewers to hurry on down to the dock to see the vessel before she left port.

American scientists tell us there is a 100 percent chance that the three pods of southern resident killer whales which frequent Georgia Basin and Puget Sound most of the year will disappear within the next hundred years. When I see footage of this massive ship, greater than three football fields in length, it suddenly becomes clear to me what they are talking about, and why they are saying what they are. Still, I'd like to think that the orcas stand a fighting chance, and that that 100 percent figure has only been rounded off to the nearest hundred, so that maybe in fact we have as much as a 49 percent chance of saving them, by prohibiting the passage of such enormous ships in their path, for instance.

As the saying goes, where there is no vision, the people perish. Well, the same holds true for the oceans - where there is no vision, the orcas perish. So long as the kind of cargo cult mentality epitomised by the Global TV segment predominates, there is no hope for the orcas. And if there is no hope for the orcas, then humanity probably doesn't have much of a future either.

The Perils of Marine Planning in BC

The federal government's planning process for the wet coast of Canada is floundering. It's not just the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area ( PNCIMA ) initiative on the North Coast either. There are other government processes active on the north and central coasts as well, that are in more or less direct competition with development proposals for the offshore, especially offshore oil and gas. The Scott Islands Marine Wildlife Conservation initiative is just one example; that plan was a deliberate attempt by David Anderson to throw a spanner in the works of efforts to lift the moratorium. Guess who won that battle?; well, actually it's a stalemate so far.

The same thing is happening on the south coast, only few people are noticing. The most obvious example is the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area ( SSGNMCA ) initiative. Laudable as this project may seem on the surface, especially given the precarious status of the southern resident killer whales in the area, it is actually somewhat ludicrous to even consider designating one of the world's greatest shipping routes, namely Boundary Pass connecting Vancouver to the Pacific, as a conservation area. I mean, either it's a major maritime route or a vital conservation area, but you can't have it both ways, because having several thousand enormous vessels passing through it each year is incompatible with the goals of conservation. If you are serious about declaring the area a conservation area, then, fine, you'll have to walk the talk by banning commercial ships from the zone. The Yanks have done it off the coast of Washington state, where tankers are banned from a marine area adjacent to Olympic National Park. Fat chance of the Canucks doing likewise in Boundary Pass - where else is traffic supposed to go? Rosario Strait on the US side of the maritime boundary? Don't even think about it!

If all of this weren't bad enough, the government supports the Pacific Gateway initiative, which if it goes through will probably result in a doubling or tripling of maritime shipping traffic in and out of Vancouver, not to mention PR. Pity the orcas!

It's kind of like Ducks Unlimited building their Canadian HQ right smack in the middle of a Manitoba marsh, except that in the case of the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area it's the reverse: here the plan is to plunk a conservation area down in the midst of a busy shipping corridor. This is really putting the cat among the pigeons. Government is forever doing silly things like that, promoting one goal in one direction and then promoting another goal that is basically incompatible with the first. Just like with the explosive growth of the oil sands, supported with tax write-offs, at the same time as we tout our commitment to Kyoto. Which is it - oil sands or Kyoto? Which is it - SSGNMCA for Boundary Pass and a conservation strategy for killer whales, or massive expansion of the Roberts Bank container terminal? Which is it, approval of five or six big projects with shipping components in Kitimat and Prince Rupert, or a credible planning process in the form of PNCIMA? Okay, fine, if through PNCIMA these projects eventually get approved, that's okay, if that's what people want. But why consult people in a region about their collective future if the regulatory processes applicable to these projects ( which collectively amount to a megaproject, in my opinion ) are going to operate under the old rules and the old system. This is why people don't trust government. For PNCIMA to be credible, maybe there should be a moratorium on the approval processes for all these projects, until such time as PNCIMA is up and running and has come up with a plan in, say, five to ten years. THAT would show that the government means business. But, of course, it will never happen.

Among the problems associated with PNCIMA is the fact that the process engages only First Nations communities, and not the muncipalities such as Prince Rupert and Kitimat where most if not all of the proposed coastal development is scheduled to occur. For PNCIMA to be truly effective as a planning tool, all stakeholders must be part of the process.

In short, by setting up competing processes, with a two-track approach to policy objectives, we seem to be creating a situation in which conflict is inherent and unavoidable; and then we ask and expect all parties to duke it out and reach a consensus. This is totally unrealistic, in my opinion. Instead, what we have to do is incorporate sustainable development processes and thinking into existing processes, such as the NEB, TERMPOL, etc., so that conservation is built into the planning process rather than superimposed on top of it. As someone once said years ago, the real sign that Canada practices what it preaches when it comes to the environment will be when there is no longer a department called Environment Canada. Instead, sustainable development principles and respect for the environment will be built in to the policies, programs, practices and intitiatives of all government departments, across the board.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The BC Offshore Oil and Gas Moratorium

What ever happened to the burning issue of lifting the decades-old British Columbia offshore oil and gas moratorium? The grapevine has it that Gordon Campbell has been leaning on Stephen Harper to lift the federal ban, but that Ottawa is in no hurry to do so. Meanwhile, Shell Canada head Clive Mather was recently reported to be pushing for resumption of exploration activity. For its part, the public seem to have no desire for offshore activity, and the Queen of the North ferry disaster has only served to highlight the perils of doing anything in these waters. Then there are hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which are said to have destroyed an incredible 113 Gulf of Mexico production platforms, plus 457 pipeline gathering systems. If this isn't a wake up call on the subject of drilling in extreme environments, then what is? I mean, the Gulf was one of those areas cited by proponents of lifting the ban as a success story, with an impeccable safety and environmental record.

Mind you, offshore Newfoundland is another frontier area often mentioned as a model for BC offshore exploration and development. Well, you can forget about that claim now, because just this week Petro Canada was fined a record $290,000 CDN for the 2004 Terra Nova spill. In this case, a test separator malfunctioned for five hours at the floating production, storage and off-loading vessel, which is located 350 kilometres offshore. The result was that a total of approximately 160,000 litres of crude oil spilled into the ocean before crew noticed anything. Unbelievably, the company says that no one has been disciplined for the spill, since it was a team effort. Way to go team! If we stick together it's truly amazing what we can accomplish!

The point in all this is that when operating in extreme environments such as the Gulf of Mexico or offshore Newfoundland, Murphy's law kicks in - anything that can go wrong will go wrong. You can take all the precautions imaginable, and over-engineer everything, but at the end of the day you're still tempting fate by operating in sometimes horrendous conditions, or leaving yourself open to human error. Do we really want to take such a chance in the Queen Charlotte Basin, where marine bombs occur on average seventeen times each winter with little or no warning, and where it would be virtually impossible to clean up a major spill during wintertime? Scientists tell us that the impact of a major spill in the region could be catastrophic and irreversible. Prevailing winter winds could whip the oil ashore, trapping it in the area's many inlets, bays and fjords. Is it worth risking salmon and other stocks for just a marginal gain in the world's reserves of oil and gas? Why not use up proven reserves onshore instead, where the risks are better understood, and it is easier, in theory at least, to contain a spill?

These are just some of the questions one asks oneself as one awaits word as to whether the offshore oil and gas moratorium is about to be lifted. The oilpatch likes to go to the ends of the earth to find and exploit offshore oil and gas, but does it really have to go everywhere? Are there no places that are better left undisturbed? If there are certain frontier areas where we should not defy the gods, the Queen Charlotte Basin would seem to be a prime candidate for inclusion. In other words, leave the Basin alone. Go somewhere else with your seismic work, your drilling rigs, your production platforms, your tankers and your pipelines. Do not defile what some like to call The Galapagos of the North.

Regulating the Whale Watching Industry

B.C. marine mammal enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the federal government's decision as to whether they intend to go ahead with regulations governing the whale watching industry on the wet coast of Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced its intention of doing so in 2003, going so far as to seek public comment on a draft set of regulations. There is no word as to whether the current minority conservative government in Ottawa plans to take this dossier a step further and actually introduce legislation on the subject.

Aside from some rather weak regulations prohibiting harrassment of marine mammals, and a set of voluntary whale watching guidelines which the courts have used as a yardstick for determining whether harrassment has actually ocurred, the lucrative whale watching fleet is virtually ungoverned. This is in spite of the fact that the southern resident killer whales, which are the principal target of the industry, are officially listed as endangered on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, in the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound area. Scientists have determined that the orcas are subject to threats from a number of sources, including contaminated habitat, dwindling food supply, noise pollution, and interference from the whale watching fleet and pleasure craft, which on a good summer day can number in excess of one hundred vessels. The guidelines are intended essentially to keep the boats a safe distance from the whales, while allowing the public to enjoy a wildlife experience for which they often pay top dollar.

The guidleines are by and large respected, at least by the commercial whale watching fleet, although such outlawed practices as getting in the path of the whales are extremely common. The whale watching business is highly competitive, and the vessel operators are under much pressure from clients to get closer and closer to the whales, and to get as close up as other boats. The result is that the guides often resort to a practice called 'leapfrogging', which brings them from a position alongside or behind the whales to one up in front of them. Nevertheless,it is the flotilla of pleasure craft that is most often guilty of infractions, sometimes out of ignorance, no doubt, but other times because there is little fear of sanction. Meanwhile, the Marine Mammal Monitoring Group ( M3 ) from Canada, and its American counterpart, Soundwatch from Friday Harbour on San Juan Island, try to keep an eye on what is going on and educate boaters, but they have no real powers of enforcement.

What is really lacking, and desperately needed, is control on the numbers, types and size of the fleet out on the water of Haro Strait at any given time. One whale expert has suggested a type of quota for the noise level, for instance, although it is difficult to see how this could be effectively enforced. A more likely control would be to place limits on the horsepower of the engines of the vessels involved, or perhaps the decibel level emanating from them underwater. Restrictions on the numbers of zodiacs tracking the whales, and/or the size of the vessels, are no doubt also being contemplated, as these types of suggestions were put forward during the course of the consultations. One theory has it that having a smaller number of large vessels capable of accommodating large numbers of whale watchers might have less of an overall impact on the whales than a large number of noisy, smaller, faster craft such as the zodiacs. At any given time on a lovely summer day there might be upwards of 18 to 24 zodiacs in the vicinity of the whales. When one considers that the orcas can be basically surrounded by a fleet this large from morning to night between May and October, the potential negative impact on these creatures is not hard to imagine. For this same reason, refuges, where the whales can go to excape the noise, the pollution, and the general congestion are also no doubt being considered.

In short, it would appear that something is going to have to be done to protect this endangered species from a largely unregulated business activity in the waters around Haro Strait in particular. What form that regulation might take is anyone's guess, but one can assume that there will be beefed up monitoring, control or enforcement, even if only to apply the existing regulations prohibiting harassment. The bottom line is that while self-enforcement has its plusess and minuses, it is probably insufficient to protect the southern resident killer whales from undue interference. Thus, stay tuned to this blog for updates as to the federal government's plans, as they are announced, possibly in the months to come.

The Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve

Environment Canada is about to hold yet another round of consultations regarding its proposed Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. This is the third go round of a lengthy process to put forward some strategic ideas and garner public input and support for the plan. But is it realistic, or is it rather a misguided, overly-ambitious and thinly-disguided attempt at empire-building? Only time will tell, but in its present state the draft feasibility study is full of platitudes, pays lip service to every planning buzzword imaginable, and basically reinvents the wheel.

In a nutshell, the idea of creating a marine conservation area right smack in the middle of one of the world's busiest shipping lanes seems preposterous. What the Government of Canada should be doing instead is coming up with a comprehensive plan for the area - one which is built on consensus, shared values and visions, and mutual understanding. Instead, what we face is a needlessly complicated bureaucratic process which no one understands, which duplicates existing regulatory systems, and which merely adds to the existing planning approaches rather than building on them or replacing them. This is unfortunate, for it forces even those who believe in intelligent planning and sustainable development to reject an initiative that would otherwise be laudable, on the grounds that it is unworkable and impractical.

The officials responsible for the elaboration of this feasibility need to go back to basics, and to refrain from hopelessly raising public expectations as to what the process is to achieve. Commercial shipping is expected to expand by leaps and bounds in the years to come. A report issued May 9, 2005, for instance, by the Western Transportation Advisory Council, predicts that container shipping traffic in BC is expected to triple in the course of the next ten years. Although part of this growth will be taken up by a new container terminal in Prince Rupert, much of it will come from the Lower Mainland. In greater Vancouver, for instance, container capacity is expected to grow from the current 1.7 million TEUs to over 5 million. At Roberts Bank, a third berth is being built at the Deltaport terminal, and an entirely new second three berth terminal is also planned. Such expansion plans come on the heels of an already nmajor expansion of container handling capacity at the Centerm and Vanterm container terminals in Burrard Inlet. The Centerm terminal, recently bought by Dubai Ports World, has already been expanded from a capacity of 360,000 TEUs per year to 800,000, and is slated to grow even further to 1.2 million TEUs per year.

Can this kind of rapid growth ever be compatible with conservation values?; if so, how? Would one limit the size of the vessels, for instance, or the number of vessels in the area at any given time, or create zones that are off limit to cargo vessels, tankers and the like? These are all perfectly valid questions, because Boundary Pass, the principal shipping route through the area, is right smack in the middle of the proposed conservation area. This would seem to make a mockery of the idea of conservation, since an oil spill from one of these ships could cause enormous damage to the local marine ecosystem.

In addition, more emphasis needs to be placed on supporting the development of existing bodies, such as the Islands Trust, and existing initiatives such as the Southern Resident Killer Whale Conservation Strategy and Georgia Basin Action Plan, rather than creating new mechanisms, institutions and processes to deal with pressing issues involving conflicting use and values. Thus, instead of scrapping the current initiative, it should undergo a complete rethink as to what it should seek to achieve, and how it should try to get there.

The Southern Resident Killer Whale Conservation Strategy

Having designated the southern resident killer whales an endangered species, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is currently developing a conservation strategy for this icon of the Pacific northwest. The draft strategy under consideration recognises that there are a number of threats to the orcas, and accordingly proposes a series of measures to counter these negative effects and reverese the dwindling numbers.

The principal threats to southern resident killer whales, which number less than one hundred individuals at present, are environmental pollution, reduction in availabliity of prey, and disturbance of habitat from noise, ship traffic, etc. Potentially catastrophic oil spills are among the principal threats identified. The problem with the plan is that by focussing on a long-term recovery strategy, it fails to come to grips with the clear and present danger of an oil spill from a tanker, cargo vessel or cruise ship. A large spill from any one of these sources could wipe the local orcas off the map virtually overnight, or condemn them to eventual extinction, as was the case with the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound in 1989, where the local pod of orcas was decimated.

Clearly, measures need to be taken now to separate ship traffic from the whales, particularly in Haro Strait, where cargo vessels typically come within one kilometre of the whales every day during the summer months. It is one thing to have Vessel Traffic Separation Systems, radar, GPS, mandatory pilotage, lighthouses, foghorns and other navaids throughout the area, but as the recent Queen of the North ferry sinking up north demonstrated, accidents can still happen, and when they do the results can be disastrous. Fortunately in the case of the ferry tragedy, the environment was for the most part spared. However, will we be so lucky if, say, a fully-laden tanker out of Vancouver runs aground in Boundary Passage?

Consideration should be given to declaring the southern Gulf Islands an Area to Be Avoided ( ATBA ) under IMO rules. This way, traffic could be diverted to the American side, to perhaps Rosario Strait, where the Alaskan tankers currently naviagate on their way to the refineries at Ferndale and Anacortes. Moreover, Canadian law should require tug escorts for tankers in and out of Vancouver, just as our American cousins do. Limits should also be placed on the size of tankers, again as the Yanks do. We Canucks like to talk the talk when it comes to the environment, but on this issue we need to walk the walk; the Americans have a far more aggressive approach to marine environmental protection in this case than we do.

We also need to take a long hard look at the proposal to expand the Trans Mountain tanker terminal in Burnaby, for it is ludicrous to envisage an up to eigthfold increase in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea at the same time the government of Canada is entertaining proposals to conserve the endangered orcas. We have to ask ourselves: what do we value more, shipping goods and bulk cargo to and from Asia in much greater amounts in order to fuel our development, or the continued existence of these magnificent creatures. How much teeth will American and Canadian endangered species legislation have if development in the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound region is allowed to proceed unfettered, thereby sealing the fate of the marine mammals? Put another way, are we prepared to sacrifice our standing of living so that we can continue to enjoy watching orca whales in this part of the world?

These are difficult questions, and they involve tough choices. Scientists give southern resident killer whales a very slim chance of surviving the next hundred years, no matter what is done to protect them. But, does that mean we should not try? Does that mean that we shouldn't even bother, because in effect we'd be wasting our time and money? Tell that to your grandchildren the next time they see an orca swim by. Life is all about choices, and even with the best of intentions and the most stringent controls on shipping and development the orcas may still disappear. Nevertheless, we have a duty, both moral and legal, to do all we can to bring the orcas back from the brink of extinction, to take measures to conserve them, to clean up their habitat, and to minimise the chances of a catastrophic oil spill wiping them out.

So, write your MP and MLA and tell them you're concerned about the way things are going in the Salish Sea. Tell them you worry about the survival of our beloved orcas if a third berth is added to the Deltaport terminal at Roberts Bank, as is currently planned, and an entirely new three-berth terminal added as well. Tell them you don't like Kinder Morgan's plans to dramatically increase the number of tanker movements from its Burnaby terminal through the Salish Sea either. Finally, participate in the federal consultation process for the Soutern Strait of Georgia Marine Conservation Area. In other words, stand up and be counted if you want to save the whales.

Contaminants in Victoria Sewage and Killer Whales: The Missing Link

The gold-plated, blue ribbon SETAC expert panel charged with reviewing the matter of the disposal of raw Victoria sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is scheduled to report to its client, the Capital Regional District ( CRD ) on July 12. For $600,000 it had better be good. For that amount, the CRD could have commissioned a first class feasibility study for a tertiary sewage treatment facility. Instead, what we anticipate is yet another study friendly to the position of the CRD technocrats and a fistful of local oceanographers who have been co-opted, which is basically that the century-old practice of dumping liquid waste into the ocean off the southern tip of Vancouver Island is perfectly safe from an environmental perspective, and that there is therefore no need to get rid of the two outfall pipes in the region, one at Macaulay Point and the other at Clover Point. Defenders of the dumping practice argue that the cold waters of Victoria Bight, plus the strong currents, provide a natural, beneficial flushing function which rapidly rids the area of any and all sewage.

Having said that, the panel will have to deal with one of the issues raised in a submission by the current author. The study in question, entitled "Is Victoria Sewage Contaminating Southern Resident Killer Whales?" was commissioned by the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and can be downloaded off of the Victoria Sewage Alliance web site. ( Just click on the "Dr. Gerald Graham's Submission" link on line five of substantive text. ) The submission examines the possible link between contaminants in Victoria sewage and contaminants in southern resident killer whales. What it finds is that although there is no smoking gun pointing to Victoria sewage as the cause for the decline in local orca populations, there are indicators which suggest that raw Victoria sewage is contributing to the orcas' plight.

The link between contaminants in Victoria sewage and contaminants in resident killer whales is basically as follows:

1) A number of the contaminants in Victoria sewage, such as PCBs and mercury, are also present in the southern residents;
2) A pathway exists to transport contaminants that come out of the Clover Point outfall pipe to nearby Haro Strait, which is core habitat for southern residents.

Scientists have in fact postulated that bottom currents around that outfall pipe tend, at least half of the time, to end up in Haro Strait, a core habitat area for two of the local orca pods some of the time, and one pod year-round. Raw Victoria sewage could also be contaminating chinook salmon, the principal diet of the southern residents.

More research needs to be done for a direct link to be established between the sewage contaminants and the contaminants in the southern resident killer whales. For instance, effluent tracer studies could be undertaken. In the meantime, and especially since we are dealing here with a species which has been officially designated as endangered on both sides of the forty-ninth paradox, the pre-cautionary principle should prevail. That principle, it will be recalled, basically states that absence of scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse for avoiding action which might could solve a pressing environmental problem. In other words, one could study the matter of declining orca numbers to death, but in the meantime the target species could go the way of the dodo bird and the great auk. Better to act now, while we have a chance to save these magnificent creatures, rather than dither and risk their disappearance. For, as the Sierra Club bumper sticker used to remind us, "Extinction is Forever!".

An immediate commitment to build local sewage treatment facilities and halt raw sewage discharge into the Strait of Juan de Fuca is all the more appropriate given the Mayor of Victoria's support for such a move, and the federal government's renewed financial commitment to such an initiative. In short, there is no need to wait for the boondoggle SETAC report before deciding to act.

Kill the Tankers, Save the Whales

Kinder Morgan announced yesterday that it plans to increase its Trans Mountain Pipeline capacity from the current 225,000 barrels per day ( bpd ) to 1.1 million bpd. The Trans Mountain line runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, British Columbia, from where most of the oil is shipped by another pipeline to the United States. However, at the present time a small percentage of the oil that ends up in Burnaby is shipped out by tanker, at the rate of about one tanker shipment per month.

This staggered expansion project will see capacity increase to 300,000 bpd by 2008, and to 400,000 the following year, and eventually to over one million bpd. How much of this capacity will end up being shipped through Georgia Strait, Boundary Pass, Haro Strait and the Straight of Juan de Fuca is unknown. Nevertheless, the tanker component of the expansion project should definitely form part of the proposed review of the project by the National Energy Board ( NEB ), which is expected to commence in August of this year, if for no other reason than the fact that this tanker route runs right through the critical habitat area for the southern resident killer whales. These orcas are an officially-listed endangered species in both Canada and the United States. It is generally recognised that a major oil spill could have catastrophic impacts on the southern residents, potentially wiping out the entire southern resident population, which currently consists of approximately 90 individuals in three pods - J, K and L. The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, it will be recalled, essentially decimated a local pod of killer whales, to the point where their eventual extinction is a virtual certainty.

BCers should rise up and protest this massive expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline for its potential impact on the health of the local marine environment, popularly referred to as the Salish Sea. Canadian controls over tanker movements in this area are far less stringent than those of our American counterparts for Puget Sound and the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Our Yankee cousins, for instance, impose limits on the size of tankers in the region, and have requirements for tug escort over certain portions of the route. Canada has no such restrictions at present.

A stark choice may face Canadians - do we want to protect the orca whales, an iconic symbol of the Pacific Northwest, or do we want to develop the southern mainland as a principal outlet for tar sands oil on the west coast? Which do we prefer? Because to think that we can have both, especially when the orcas are already subject to a wide variety of stressors, including noise pollution, deterioration of habitat, scarcity of food supply and hounding by whale watching vessels, is to dream in Technicolour.

So, get out there and demand that the NEB's public review of the Kinder Morgan expansion include the tanker component. Also, demand that the BC and federal governments institute a comprehensive planning process for the Salish Sea - one that effectively recognises the crucial links between future development of the Lower Mainland and marine environmental quality in the region. The Kinder Morgan expansion, when coupled with other plans for upgrading of facilities, such as the doubling of capacity at the Roberts Bank bulk terminal, force one to take a long, hard look at the direction in which we are headed. We talk the talk about sustainable development for our kids and grandkids, but with these and other development proposals on the table, does this accurately reflect our vision for the area? Are these plans, for instance, compatible with the goals and objectives of the draft Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Reserve initiative? Somehow I doubt it. We must be prepared to walk the walk as well, to put our money where our mouth is, and to stand up for what we believe in.

Kinder Morgan's proposals should also be looked at in terms of the cumulative effects this and other maritime shipping proposals on the Lower Mainland could have on the marine environment. For instance, in addition to the expansion of the Trans Mountain terminal, a third berth is being added to the Deltaport terminal, and a new terminal is being built at the Roberts Bank facility. It is definitely time to stand up and say "Enough is enough!" We want the same kind of planning for the marine environment that we have come to expect for terrestrial ecosystems. Better still, we want the terrestrial and marine ecosystems to be viewed in an integrated manner, in recognition of their fndamental interconnectedness."