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REPORTING · 7th October 2013
Walter McFarlane
The Gallery was full at the Special Meeting of Council On Monday, September 30th. Chevron was presenting to Council on the Dumping of Clay at Clio Bay and attracted quite a crowd of citizens who were concerned about the action.

Dave Molinski took a seat at the Council Meeting and introduced his entourage, some of whom would be presenting to Council. He expressed this was Chevron’s first opportunity to address Council.

“Our site, which is located at Bish Cove, […] was discovered to have large amounts of what’s called Marine Clay. What marine clay is, is a naturally occurring mineral soil that’s found throughout the Kitimat region. It’s located in sub surface areas right now throughout the Douglas Channel and it’s located on land all in this area surrounding the Kitimat Community. It was deposited a great deal of time ago. It was clay that was produced by the glaciation process and clay brought down stream by rivers and built up over time,” said Molinski.

He explained the Bish Cove sight was originally below the water but over time, it rose up and became land with a layer of clay which is not stable enough to build the LNG facility on. They are trying to find areas to dispose of the clay. Chevron has been working with Haisla First Nations, Marine Biologists, Ecologists and other Scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to develop a plan for disposing the clay in Clio Bay.

He stated this came from a Haisla suggestion to use the clay to cap marine habitats. They knew there were marine habitats which had been degraded due to woody material and there was an opportunity for a marine restoration project.

Molinski told Council it is a clean clay without other debris.

“Why restore Clio Bay?” asked Molinski. “Clio Bay is an important historical site where Haisla traditionally crab and fish. It’s been known for 1000s of years that the Haisla Nation has undertaken its traditional activities in the bay and it also has a very high recreational value for the region.”

He told Council there has been a lot of log storage in the area and many of those logs have sunk to the bottom of the bay which is covered by wood debris. This has affected the bay’s ecosystem. Chevron has a lot of excess marine clay which they need to get rid of and a bay which is compromised. He expressed there is an opportunity to bring the two situations together to form a win/win opportunity for the Haisla Nation and the Community of Kitimat.

The clay would be loaded onto barges which would be hauled and deposited from a split bottom barge and allowed to settle onto the bottom of the Bay in preselected locations based on GPS, weather and currents. The clay would be placed over the wood debris to create a productive habitat where flora, fauna and marine life could thrive. They will be monitoring and adapting the program, learning from it. They have reviewed other projects and take what was learned there and apply it to Kitimat and could also restore other bays as well.

Molinski expressed they are looking for input from the community. They want to get started in the New Year but have the execution plan developed. They will be meeting with people from Kitamaat, Kitimat, and users. They will be having an Open House in Kitamaat Village on October 7th at 5:30 and at Riverlodge in Kitimat from 4-8 pm. Chevron will be also be setting up meetings with groups throughout October.

He expected the program to take place over a 16 month process. “We’re confident that this project is going to be a very valuable project that will create a lasting restoration for the community,” concluded Molinski.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know what Molinski expected to see in the future compared to what he sees right now. Tim Edgell, a marine biologist stepped up to the microphone to explain what the bay should look like.

“These are areas which were dug out by glaciers once upon a time so they have very steep rocky walls, and the bottom would be an accumulation of sediments. Sediments would have built up ever so slowly over thousands of years,” said Edgell. “In that type of environment, naturally, untouched, what you’d expect to see would be a dense community of life on the rocky walls. Things that like to cling to rocks and encrusting things. Having deep high flowing water, you might see some sponges and you might find some sponges at the mouth of Clio Bay. Near the bottom, in the more sediment laden sea floor, […] you have things like burrowing worms, nematode worms, [and other] worms, these things that nobody ever really cares much about but form the basis of a food web.”

He expressed everything else, like crabs, would follow. He explained there is still marine life living in amongst the wood in Clio Bay, but it is different. He told Council the woody type habitats would have less biodiversity and productivity.

Councillor Phil Germuth wanted to know why Council has not seen any studies justifying this plan working out. He was told studies will be available at the open houses and they will be willing to go through the studies with Council.

Germuth followed up with a question about how Molinski would feel if the shoe was on the other foot, and Molinski found out that an area he used would be changing and a statement about how this was hidden from Kitimat Council even though it has been looked at for 2 and a half years.

“To wait until three months before you want to start dumping, which is in January. We’re into October now! How would you feel?” asked Germuth.

Molinski stated there is a lot of need for information and apologized for not being there sooner. He told Council this question is important to the community, whom they want to work with to devise a solution which is satisfactory to everyone and they want to move forward.

Councillor Corinne Scott inquired if Chevron had looked into alternate methods for disposing of the clay. Brent Macintyre got up to say they did have alternate methods for getting rid of the excess material. They could move some of it into upland storage areas. They are trying to address the problem by doing something productive with it.

Scott wanted to know if Marine Clay was the best substance to restore Clio Bay. She suggested using sand or dredging the logs out of Clio Bay. Ian Austin, a Coastal Engineer rotated up and stated they are performing studies on the behaviour of the clay for various restoration projects such as marsh and shoreline habitats. He said it was an ongoing process. He explained Marine Clay is used by crabs.

Scott told him there are a lot of crab at the mouth of the bay, but wanted to know why not sand because salmon use the bay as well. Austin told her it was because the Haisla told them Clio Bay was Dungeness Crab Habitat.

Germuth wanted to know about how the herring runs, salmon migrations and whales which will go into the bay will be affected by the dumping over the 16 months of dumping. Edgell told him they have been looking at Clio Bay for over a year, surveying the shoreline and sea floor. They have found healthy habitats such as the mouth of the bay. At the mouth of the bay is eel grass which is good for herring. The areas will be factored into the execution plan.

Austin told Council they are tracking all of this using a computer modeling program to protect the marine environment.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked about comments on an article written by Robin Rowland (found by clicking here).

He was told they were not aware of the articles but understanding there is precedence in large scale capping and disposal activities, such as how long it would take animals to re-colonize.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated the community wants to see Chevron succeed but many have concerns and lack of knowledge as to what is happening in Clio Bay. He asked which Federal Body had the ultimate decision making authority. He was told it was the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Feldhoff asked if there will be opportunities for people to use or take shelter in the Bay. He was told they are still developing the execution plans and there will be times the public will have limited access the Bay. They are still working on how this would happen. They want to know at what times in the year the people of Kitimat will be using it.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated Clio Bay has been a concern to the Haisla, and her husband who fishes at Clio Bay tells her the mouth is healthy for fish and crab but not the bay itself. She is looking for information from the public and Chevron.

Councillor Edwin Empinado asked how big the woody area was. The response was 40% of the Bay is covered at the 60 metre mark. However the Bay extends to up to 200 metres deep and there could be up to 80% estimated.

Goffinet asked about how stakeholders could get in touch. Molinski said they are contacting people and they will work with them. Council can connect other groups and they would be happy to set those meetings up.

Germuth stated crabs and fish are in Clio Bay, the mouth is just the well-known place. He reminded everyone who was there that a good fisherman will never reveal his secret fishing spots and there are other crabbing spots in the Bay. He suggested giving a presentation to the people of Kitimat at their open house and giving them room to ask questions.

Germuth also stated Council should have a copy of the request which was made to the DFO, citing an article in the paper where the DFO stated it would be gravel, sand, silt and clay which would be dumped. Edgell told Council the material was analyzed in a lab and the majority of the material was clay but there were also the other materials found in the clay.

Scott clarified they could not simply dump this in the Douglas Channel. Macintire told her there was pushback but it never reached a conclusion so they looked for another answer and found Clio Bay.

Feldhoff wanted to know if there would be damage done if it were dumped in Douglas Channel. He was told it would be the same. The area would have to be re-colonized but it would be covering a healthy natural community. What would survive depends on how hardy it is and how much material would be dumped.

Germuth told them they are getting a lot more public feedback on this than they would on dumping in the middle of Douglas Channel because the dumping in Clio Bay had not been made public until recently while dumping in the middle of the channel had been made public.

“Everybody knew what was going on, I never had a single person ever mention that they had a problem with that. But because this was hidden from us, now you’re getting a lot of push back on this and everybody does support the LNG project but there are serious concerns about dumping in Clio Bay because you guys have been hiding it from us. We still haven’t received any documents on it or nothing,” said Germuth.

There were no further questions. Monaghan thanked them all for coming and stated there would probably be more questions at the open house. Monaghan added they invited the Department of Fisheries and Oceans but they sent their regrets.