To mark the recent publication of Freshwater Politics in Canada, author Peter Clancy provides a brief overview of the freshwater dimensions of the controversial Northern Gateway project, as well as its many political dimensions. For more on this, or on related issues such as fracking, salmon conservation, Aboriginal water interests, freshwater governance, etc., grab a copy of his brand new book!
The Northern Gateway project is one of the most significant energy ventures in Canada today. It proposes a 36 inch oil pipeline to convey diluted bitumen (heavy synthetic oil) from the Fort McMurray region to Kitimat BC. There it will be loaded onto tankers for Asian markets. A parallel 20 inch line will carry imported natural gas condensates, required in the manufacturing process, in the opposite direction. About 45 percent of the 1,177 km corridor is in Alberta with the balance in British Columbia.
Freshwater politics is only part of the controversy here but it is a big part. More than one thousand rivers and streams must be crossed. While all watercourses are sensitive, the proposed Gateway route crosses five major Canadian watersheds. The Skeena and the Fraser drain to the Pacific, the Peace and the Athabasca flow northerly to the Arctic Ocean and the North Saskatchewan River flows easterly to Hudson’s Bay. These watersheds and sub-watersheds enclose a plethora of biological and social communities and each generates a variety of political concerns.