The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs (GHC) express deep concerns over the proposed Ksi Lisims LNG Project (the Project) in an open letter addressed to the representatives of the Project on November 24, 2023.
Ksi Lisims LNG proposes to construct a floating LNG terminal in the area of the Nass River estuary, potentially impacting juvenile salmon as they migrate from upriver spawning areas in the Gitanyow Lax’yip (Territory) downstream to the ocean.
The GHC recently learned through public notification information that the proposed LNG terminal is now directly linked to the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline (PRGT).
The proposed PRGT pipeline has the potential to cross more than 50 kilometres of Gitanyow Lax’yip, including four Wilp (House Group) territories.
While Gitanyow reviewed the PRGT project in 2014, at that time the pipeline was intended to connect to a different LNG terminal on Lelu Island. Since 2014, new information on climate change and climate impacts from LNG development is available, and both federal and provincial governments have fully endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Gitanyow and other nations have also learned through the experiences of the Wet’suwet’en Clans and Hereditary Chiefs the true and unforeseen impacts of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline in their Yintah (territories).
“Gitanyow is very concerned about the potential impacts to Nass River threatened Chinook salmon, and to date, we have not been even informed by the proponent or government about the project, let alone being consulted,” says Simogyet (Hereditary Chief) Malii.
“The Chiefs sent a letter to Ksi Lisims detailing our concerns with two key areas of potential impact; Gitanyow’s rights and interests, and to propose a pathway forward for the potential Gitanyow review of the Project under our Wilp Sustainability Assessment Process (WSAP).”
The Gitanyow WSAP was developed by the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs in 2020 to parallel provincial and federal environmental assessment processes and to enact Gitanyow Ayookxw (Laws) in a modern context responding to cumulative impacts, climate change, and recognizing and upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Wilp Sustainability refers to the conditions under which our ecosystems are functioning and healthy, ensuring that each Wilp is able to provide for current and future generations of its members,” says Naxginkw, Tara Marsden, Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chief’s Office.
“The potential impacts of this project on Gitanyow’s fisheries and British Columbia’s climate targets must be addressed. Globally, 2023 was the hottest year on record and B.C. alone was hit with alarming province-wide wildfires and drought. Here in Gitanyow
our glaciers are receding and critical salmon spawning habitats are impacted by drought and low snowpack. We all have a responsibility to mitigate and prevent climate impacts.”
Although Gitanyow is not identified as a Participating Indigenous Nation in the EAO process, they have conducted a preliminary review of the Project’s EAO application and have provided the following feedback to Ksi Lisims LNG in time that it may be considered during the public comment period.
Backgrounder – Gitanyow’s Submission To Ksi Lisims LNG & Provincial Government
Climate Impacts From Well-Head To Terminal
Now that the Ksi Lisims LNG project is formally directly linked to the PRGT, it is our understanding that the two projects are now significantly or wholly interdependent. Your company may not be aware of Gitanyow’s call for a full cost accounting of all greenhouse gas emissions related to the PRGT pipeline in 2014 – from well-head to terminals – in order to accurately assess the climate impacts associated with both the source extraction of the natural gas and the processing and shipping of LNG at the Terminal.
Unfortunately, this call was not heeded by either the proponent or the provincial government. Instead, the pipeline was assessed as your Project is now being proposed to be assessed, without due context to the full extent of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the entire scope of development required to bring your Project into operation. This is what is referred to as ‘project splitting’ – an arbitrary and self-serving bifurcation of multiple aspects of the same overall project into smaller discrete
components to make ‘net zero’ claims more feasible.
The agreement between Ksi Lisims LNG and TC Energy (PRGT proponent) means that the terminal is subsequently in the scope of the pipeline that would potentially cross the Gitanyow Lax’yip for not only climate impacts assessment but also due to the impacts
on Nass River fisheries, as outlined later in this letter.
1. A first principle of impact assessment is to ensure that all changes associated with a project scenario are scoped in, yet the Application excludes activities that would not otherwise, go ahead (and the climate impacts associated with them) without the Ksi Lisims project. This exclusion of scope is essentially ‘project splitting’. The Application excludes portions of the necessary electricity infrastructure and much of the necessary marine transportation, as well as the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (PRGT) pipeline
that would feed the LNG facility with gas. Important incremental upstream activity, and the climate impacts associated with them, are also excluded; while the federal government’s Strategic Assessment of Climate Change (SACC) requires the Application to present information on upstream climate impacts associated with gas extraction, the proponent does not attempt to mitigate them. As well, given the substantial electricity demand of the project, the potential impacts associated with the displaced demands for electricity elsewhere in B.C. are not considered. Each of these exclusions needs to be scoped into the assessments because they wouldn’t occur without the Project going ahead, despite their being undertaken by third parties, such that decision-makers, rights-holders and stakeholders have the basis to fully understand the impacts of the project being proposed.
2. The mitigation proposed to address the climate impacts of the Project is deficient. Of the four measures proposed, three lack clear mechanisms for mitigation of impacts, the second (offsets) relies upon an as-of-yet uncertain framework, and the latter two are
standard practices. For all four, declarations are made of the measures’ success without explanation.
3. The Project may jeopardize provincial and federal climate targets, never mind contributing to emission reductions in Canada – something that B.C. and Canada desperately need to meet domestic as well as global commitments. The Project’s net-zero objective is critically dependent on a connection to the hydroelectricity grid, the availability of the needed electricity, and the availability of credible offsets, but these underlying conditions for the project’s climate objectives have not been sufficiently
4. The Project’s rationale centres substantially around reducing global climate impacts, yet the application has not sufficiently established that this would be achieved. The International Energy Agency and Canadian Energy Regulator both note ample global
gas supply, and both predict dramatic reductions in global gas demand. The Application does not demonstrate sufficient awareness of the global gas market and does not sufficiently examine how the incremental capacity and gas output of the project may complement – not substitute – coal and other gas supply. Furthermore, the Application does not explore the possibility that the project may lock-in project partners, communities, governments, and taxpayers in Canada, as well as consumers in export markets, to further fossil fuel usage despite a dynamic technological and energy environment and the need for drastic global decarbonisation.
These areas of concern are in addition to the outdated assessment and analysis of climate impacts associated with the PRGT pipeline, as their EA Certificate was granted close to a decade ago.
Gitanyow is currently conducting a similar review of the 2014 EA Certificate considering more recent growing knowledge, data and analysis of climate impacts and mitigation and will communicate those findings to TC Energy, the provincial government, and other
Fisheries In The Nass Watershed
The Gitanyow Huwilp have multiple fishing sites throughout the Lax’yip, many of which are in the Nass Watershed. In addition to food, social and ceremonial (FSC) fisheries, Gitanyow has recently been able to exercise the right to an economic fishery on the
Nass mainstem and at Lax an Zok on the Meziadin River. Gitanyow has an annual FSC allocation of approximately 10,000 sockeye, which is routinely achieved. Gitanyow has voluntarily restricted harvest of Chinook for several years on the Meziadin River, and successfully lobbied the government for a closure of the recreational Chinook fishery for conservation purposes. The biological status of the Chinook returning to the Upper Nass is considered Threatened with extremely low returns.
A preliminary review of the Application as it relates to impacts to Nass River fisheries identified the following key areas of concern and potential impact to the Gitanyow Huwilp:
1. Juvenile salmon (Chinook, chum, pink, coho, and sockeye) were caught by beach seine and trawl net within each sub-area (West Pearse Island, Whiskey Cove, East Pearse Island) of the Project’s proposed Marine Terminal Area during brief surveys (June 2021 and March 2022). Fish were relatively large (sockeye: mean length = 8cm-10cm, mean mass = 4g-9g) and within the average sizes of age-1 and age-2 sockeye smolts at time of emigration from Meziadin Lake (Bocking et al. 2002; Gitanyow Fisheries Authority unpublished data 2021- 2023). Juvenile salmon were the most abundant marine fish captured by beach seine and trawl net, and most abundant in June. Speculation that the abundance of juvenile salmon caught during surveys likely were of Nass origin (Lines 19-21, Page 7.9-29). While not captured, adult salmon were observed leaping adjacent to the east side of Pearse Island within the Project’s proposed Marine Terminal Area waters (Lines 36-39, Page 7.9-28).
2. While it is too early to determine the sensitivity of such juvenile salmon as they migrate from freshwater to salt water, similar assessments of LNG development at Lelu Island for the previously proposed LNG terminal is an important precedent for understanding the significance of estuary habitat for juvenile salmon.
3. The Application does not include detailed genetic data on juvenile salmon caught in the surveys described in #1. To better assess potential impacts to Gitanyow, an improved understanding of salmon populations within the proposed Marine Terminal footprint area is needed. Tissue or scale samples collected to date, or in additional survey years (June 2024 e.g.) should be analyzed at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (“DFO”) molecular genetics laboratory. Results should be shared transparently
with Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, and any other interested First Nation with fisheries interests in the Nass River Watershed.
4. Project activities during the construction, operation, and decommissioning phases will result in the alteration, disruption, or destruction of intertidal and subtidal fish habitats (Lines 2-5, 7-8, Page 7.9-84.). The Project footprint is expected to affect approximately 139,101 m2 of marine fish habitat. A total of 25,156 m2 of marine habitat is proposed to be destroyed. An additional 39,353 m2 of marine habitat is proposed to be altered, most permanently. Bull kelp is one such species (and associated habitat) that will be destroyed during the construction phase of the project. The proposed installation of infrastructure is said to provide suitable attachment points for this species to naturally recolonize the project area from neighbouring plants, but this is speculative at best.
There currently are numerous patches of Bull kelp, particularly on the East side of Pearse Island within the Marine Terminal footprint (Figures 4.7-5, pages 4-6), that will be destroyed. While Eelgrass was observed at several locations within the Marine Terminal Area, none occur within the Marine Terminal footprint.
5. A review by DFO has determined that the Project will result in the destruction or harmful alteration of fish habitat, and therefore will require a Fisheries Act authorization and adequate habitat offsetting plan. Despite most industrial projects in BC requiring Fisheries Act authorization and adequate habitat offsetting, there are very few examples to show that such offsets work (i.e., adequately replace natural functioning habitat). While the proponent acknowledges that, “A long-term monitoring program will be required to evaluate the success of offset features”, there is no mention of whether the proposed mitigation measures or habitat offsets have proved successful elsewhere. In fact, a habitat offset plan has yet to be developed; only proposed. Thus, it is impossible
to evaluate the potential success of habitat offsets or mitigation required for the 25,156 m2 of marine habitat proposed to be destroyed, and the additional 39,353 m2 of marine habitat proposed to be altered.
6. The Application is insufficient in communicating the value and sensitivity of juvenile salmon habitat within the proposed Marine Terminal footprint areas. Gitanyow is recommending an improved understanding of juvenile salmon habitat usage within the
proposed Marine Terminal footprint area. Similar to above, this should involve more detailed surveys for juvenile salmon during their early marine migration from the Nass River and utilization of nearshore waters surrounding Pearse Island, which could extend
from April until September.
Here, research should focus on the Bull Kelp habitat planned for destruction associated with construction activities of the proposed Project’s Marine Terminal, but also include all habitats within the Project’s footprint. Questions to address include: How long are juvenile salmon present in the area? How do juvenile salmon interact with Bull Kelp habitat? What types of habitat are they most often utilizing? Are some habitats more beneficial than others because of higher food availability or lower predation risk? Which
of these habitats are most at risk if the project is built?
7. To complete these additional fisheries and habitat surveys additional field seasons are required, and Gitanyow Fisheries Authority would welcome an invitation to participate in such surveys and to receive data and analysis results. Until these additional surveys are complete, the Application will remain insufficient for Gitanyow to understand potential impacts to the Gitanyow Huwilp fisheries upriver in the Lax’yip.
The Simigigyet’m Gitanyow (Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs) are an innovative, traditional Indigenous government mandated to protect Gitanyow Nation’s lands, resources, and laws. The Gitanyow have never ceded or surrendered title to their lands, rights to their resources, or the power to make decisions within their Lax’yip (Territory). The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs’ goal is to establish government-to-government agreements that form the foundation of a modern-day treaty through an incremental treaty approach. In 2012, the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs and the province of British Columbia signed the Gitanyow Lax’Yip Land Use Plan to guide all industrial activity. Gitanyow Nation is part of the larger Gitksan Nation, encompassing 6,200 square kilometres in the Nass and Skeena Watersheds (Kitwanga and Kispiox Rivers).