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Enbridge responds to steelhead and salmon concerns

Friends of the Morice-Bulkley -- a community group loosely affiliated with Friends of Wild Salmon -- has raised concerns over the impact that a certain portion of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would have on salmon and steelhead in the event of a spill.

"It's sort of like me planning to come to your house and putting my furnace in your living room," says Tony Harris of FMB, who has worked as a fishing guide on the Morice river in Northwestern B.C. for 15 years.

According to the project plan, the double pipeline will follow the Morice river west of Houston, B.C. for about 32 kilometres before crossing at Kilometre 60, a stretch which Harris says is a prime habitat for juvenile fish.

Harris describes this as the worst place to put a pipeline because the river starts braiding on this stretch of the Morice, creating log jams which in turn form still pools for breeding salmon and steelhead.

Enbridge spokesman Alan Roth told The Tyee that the pipeline company has made "hundreds of adjustments" to the route, "based on that very kind of concern."

When asked if the Michigan spill that happened this past Monday will affect the way the Gateway pipeline is constructed, Roth responded that, "[the] engineering and technology people have nowadays for designing pipelines has advanced considerably over the decades."

The Michigan pipeline was constructed in the late 1960s, Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Bob Curran told the CBC, and weakness from aging caused that particular rupture.

Harris would prefer the Gateway project be terminated outright.

"The water quality and fish resources are too value to mess with," Harris says.

The Morice river, a tributary of the Skeena, is one of five major salmon-bearing rivers that would be threatened by an oil spill from the Gateway pipeline, according to a Friends of Wild Salmon press release from Wednesday. The other potential rivers at risk include the Stewart River, Salmon River, Copper River, and Kitimat River.

Four kinds of salmon -- Pink, Chinook, Sockeye, Coho -- and steelhead trout, migrate up these rivers to breed.

Josh Massey is completing his practicum at The Tyee.

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