NEB Fails to Protect Salmon Habitat

Living Oceans Society

NEB Fails to Protect Salmon Habitat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, October 2, 2017

Vancouver:  Applicants in the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion court proceedings scheduled to begin today in the Federal Court of Appeal are seeking answers from the National Energy Board after learning that the pipeline company has been interfering with salmon spawning in several streams in B.C.’s interior, without a permit. Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Living Oceans Society detailed concerns over the use of spawning deterrents in important Chinook salmon spawning areas, at a time when salmon returns are low, in a letter to the NEB.

“Increasing the abundance of Chinook salmon is one of the critical measures that must be taken to ensure the survival of the Southern Resident Killer Whales,” said Misty MacDuffee, Biologist and Program Director for Raincoast. “These whales are endangered and the population is at a tipping point, where failure to act to protect their food source could result in extinction.”

In filings with the National Energy Board over the past few days, Kinder Morgan has asked to be allowed to continue laying spawning deterrent mats in streams that it has chosen as candidates for trenched crossings—even before the Board has approved its route.

“It appears that Kinder Morgan has already decided where, when and how it will cross salmon bearing streams and without any approval at all—from either DFO or the NEB—it has intentionally prevented natural spawning from occurring in places where the fish would be in their way,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans.  “That would be an offence under the Fisheries Act if you or I did it.”

The groups are demanding answers from the NEB as to why the pipeline company is apparently planning to do in-stream work outside the safe work-window for salmon spawning in any event; and why it is not being required to drill under salmon-bearing rivers. A copy of the letter is attached as background.


Misty MacDuffee, Biologist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
Tel: 250-818- 2136,

Chris Genovali – Raincoast Executive Director (Victoria)
Tel: 250-888-3579

Karen Wristen - Living Oceans Executive Director (Vancouver) Tel:  604-788-5634


September 29, 2017

Ms. Sherri Young
Secretary of the Board
National Energy Board
Suite 210 – 517 10th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB  T2R 0A8


Dear Ms. Young,

Re:       Your file no. OF-Fac-Oil-T260-2013-03 03
           Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion and the use of spawning deterrent mats


We understand that Trans Mountain (hereinafter, “TMEP”) has placed spawning deterrent mats in a number of streams in the Valemount area, including Swift Creek, in the absence of final approvals for the pipeline route.  We have reviewed your correspondence directing the activity to cease and appreciate that the Board is taking steps to ensure compliance with the conditions of approval.

It is apparent from the correspondence on file that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not permitted the spawning deterrent measures that have been installed by TMEP.  It is completely unclear to us how, or at what point, the NEB intends to assess the efficacy of measures to protect wild salmon that will be adopted by TMEP.  The situation in Swift Creek, outlined below, illustrates our concern regarding the process and the substance of decisions made or to be made about watercourse crossings.

Swift Creek is one of a number of Chinook salmon spawning streams in the Valemount area that host early-timed runs to the Upper Fraser River.  These populations  are of considerable importance to the overall health of early-timed Fraser Chinook the stock.  As you know, Fraser Chinook numbers are severely depressed relative to their historical abundance , and early-timed spring and summer runs have become even further depressed in the last decade.  This year’s early-timed Chinook returns were some of the worst on record and spawning returns in the Valemount area are reported to have been very low.

The Conservation Units of Spring and Summer (52) Chinook returning to the Fraser River are ranked as Red by Fisheries and Oceans Canada under Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy.  The Raincoast Conservation Foundation has been calling for marine closures on fisheries that intercept these salmon for the last 2 years.

The scarcity of Chinook, especially early-timed runs that are in the Salish Sea in the spring, is one of the key factors limiting the recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales.

In summary, in Swift Creek we see a red-ranked fish population, the recovery of which is clearly linked to the recovery of a second endangered population, namely the Southern Resident Killer Whale, and yet the Creek is proposed by TMEP for either trenched or “isolated” crossing, with the work being done outside the least-risk biological window.  No reasons appear to be provided for this.

We would appreciate hearing from you on the following points:

1. Why is TMEP apparently contemplating construction in streams outside of the ‘least risk biological window’ for depressed spawning salmon? Has the NEB approved this already and if so, please provide us with your reasons for accepting that the work cannot be accomplished at other times of the year.

2.  Why is TMEP not required to drill under streams bearing depressed stocks of salmon? Has the NEB simply accepted all of TMEP’s proposed stream crossing methods, set out in its filing in response to Condition 43?  We have set out below the decision pathway used by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission for determining stream crossing methodologies, which would require directional drilling or boring for a crossing such as Swift Creek.  Does the NEB have any similar guidelines and if so, please provide a copy.

3.  Spawning grounds are selected by salmon for site-specific conditions that include aspects of  temperature, gravel and flows.  Have you had the benefit of any assessment of the spawning deterrent method adopted by TMEP?  We want to know if potential impacts on the spawning success rate of Chinook in the streams that have been, or are to be subject to, spawning deterrent measures haves been independently assessed. Kinder Morgan has publicly stated that the deterrent measure is “new” and “innovative”; and we can find no evidence that its impacts, beyond successfully preventing natural spawning, have been credibly assessed.  Please provide a copy of the assessment, if there is one.

4.  If there has been no assessment of the spawning deterrent method being used by TMEP, please advise as to the particulars of the monitoring regime TMEP will be required to use to assess impacts from this innovative application.

5. If salmon-bearing streams are to be trenched for the pipeline crossing, what measures will be in place to protect downstream redds or juvenile salmon from siltation when coffer dams are removed after trenching?

6. Under the Memorandum of Understanding between DFO and the NEB, the Board is required to notify DFO of any works where the Board determines an authorization under the Fisheries Act may likely be required.  For what streams, if any, has the NEB determined that an authorization would be required?  Please provide a copy of any correspondence with DFO indicating approvals may be required.

The protection of salmon and their habitat during construction of this pipeline is a matter of utmost concern to our organizations, First Nations, and British Columbians.   With returns of so many Fraser River Chinook salmon runs at critically low levels, we look forward to your advice as to the measures you are taking to protect them.



Karen G. Wristen                                                         Chris Genovali
Executive Director                                                      Executive Director
Living Oceans Society                                                 Raincoast Conservation Foundation



Figure 1. BC Oil and Gas requirements for pipeline stream crossings

Decision pathway for salmon stream crossings



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