CGL expects to begin drilling under Wedzin Kwa over a 2-3 month period starting this spring
The path of the Coastal GasLink pipeline meets the Wedzin Kwa River. Photo by Amber Bracken.
On February 6, the Terrace Standard reported: “Coastal GasLink has resumed preparations to tunnel under the Morice River south of Houston as construction of its natural gas pipeline from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada liquefied natural gas facility now underway at Kitimat continues.”
A CGL spokesperson says: “There were limited activities over the holiday period, but preparation work has resumed over this past month. We expect that the micro-drilling will take place starting this spring.”
The article concludes: “In preparation, a drilling company is getting ready to install a starting shaft which is a deep circulation excavation acting as an entry point on the east side of the Morice. The active tunneling work is expected to take two and half to three months.”
Wet’suwet’en water protector Sleydo’ has previously stated: “It’s our sacred headwaters, our clean drinking water, and our salmon spawning river.”
She adds: “Our way of life is at risk. Wedzin Kwa is the river that feeds all of Wet’suwet’en territory and gives life to our nation.”
Journalist Brandi Morin has also written the pipeline underneath Wedzin Kwa could “potentially interrupting the salmon migration routes relied upon by the Wet’suwet’en and threatening the purity of the river’s drinking water.”
She has also noted: “For countless generations, Wet’suwet’en families have gathered at designated fishing grounds according to their clans at the start of the first run of salmon — the chinook — in mid-June.”
That occasion could coincide with CGL’s drilling schedule.
Coastal GasLink intends to use a method called “micro-tunneling” to lay the 48-inch (4-foot) diameter pipe 11 metres below the lowest point of the riverbed. CGL has further stated the length of the crossing will be 888 metres (.89 kilometres).
The image below includes a “mud management” structure.
It’s not clear if Coastal GasLink will be using bentonite, a clay-based drilling mud commonly used as a lubricant during trenchless drilling. Bentonite can also reduce oxygen in the water potentially threatening fish and other aquatic species.
If used, it’s not clear how many tons of bentonite would be needed, nor how many truckloads would be required to transport the bentonite to the site.
It’s also not clear what CGL’s contingency plans are if there is an inadvertent release into the river, the potential for a mechanical failure during the drilling, or if studies have been conducted on the impact the turbidity an accidental release of drilling mud would have at this crossing on salmon and other aquatic life.
While Coastal GasLink says micro-tunneling “minimizes risk and disposal volume” and results in “limited environmental disturbances”, Wet’suwet’en water protectors continue to defend their sacred river and to assert that the pipeline is a violation of their sovereignty and lacks their free, prior and informed consent.
PBI-Canada visited Wet’suwet’en territory this past November and continues to follow this situation closely.