MPs raise concerns over pipeline construction obstructing salmon run

Natasha Bulowski
A dead salmon is photographed in the Coquihalla River near a Trans Mountain worksite. Photo by Kate Tairyan

Aug. 12, 2022

Four B.C. MPs are urging the federal government to halt the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project at least until salmon have finished spawning. The call comes after environmental group Protect the Planet documented salmon dying near a Trans Mountain worksite in Hope, B.C., last week.

Trans Mountain has a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) permit to do instream construction to replace a segment of the existing pipeline and install the new pipeline for the expansion project. The permit is valid for August — the month the DFO deems least disruptive to salmon.

But this year, longtime Hope resident and health science professor Kate Tairyan spotted salmon in the Coquihalla River at the beginning of August, which she says is three weeks earlier than usual.

“According to DFO calendars, the run starts at the end of August,” Tairyan told Canada’s National Observer. “But tell that to the fish.”

The NDP’s fisheries critic Lisa Marie Barron, house leader Peter Julian, infrastructure and communities critic Bonita Zarrillo and Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan signed an open letter raising concerns about the impact pipeline construction is having on the early salmon run.

The letter asks the ministers for Fisheries and Oceans, Environment, Natural Resources and Crown-Indigenous Relations to “intervene and halt construction of the TMX pipeline expansion,” adding the future health of wild Pacific salmon species may depend on their action.

The federal NDP opposes the Liberal government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the expansion project, though Leader Jagmeet Singh has not said whether the party would cancel it.

“Ministers, our public opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion remains steadfast; but, so long as the pipeline remains an asset held by the government in the public trust, we expect transparency, accountability, and regulatory compliance in this undertaking, including every precaution to steward the safe passage of spawning salmon on the Coquihalla River, and all impacted tributaries of the Fraser River,” the letter reads.

Tairyan and her husband inspected five dead salmon and found four of them were full of eggs, the letter noted. She said they decided to check the fish after a Trans Mountain worker assured them the fish had already spawned.

This year is also expected to be a dominant year in the sockeye salmon’s four-year reproductive cycle, meaning the run size will be larger than in other years. The letter stressed that “protecting the millions of salmon expected to spawn in these rivers this year is utterly crucial for the survival of these keystone species.”

B.C. NDP MPs are urging the federal government to intervene and halt the construction of #TMX at least until salmon have finished spawning. #SalmonRun #TransMountain - Twitter

On Tuesday, the DFO told Canada’s National Observer a regulatory inspection team was on-site to ensure Trans Mountain is following the conditions of the permit and that “corrective action will be taken if required.”

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

[Top photo: A dead salmon is photographed in the Coquihalla River near a Trans Mountain worksite. Photo by Kate Tairyan]