A giant glacier helped gouge the Douglas Channel starting north of Terrace, passing Kitimat down to today’s coast. Some of the islands that Enbridge forgot to mention in its promotional video, like Hawksbury Island, just south of Kitimat, are made up of glacial deposits, rising 200 metres above sea level.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declared that science, not politics, will decide the fate of the Northern Gateway project . Harper’s statement left many in Canada scratching their heads, given his government’s well known antipathy to any scientific finding that conflicts with its ideological blinders.
A Canadian Press story that received nationwide attention this weekend, told of how budget cuts and tight timelines make a proper response to Enbridge’s plans virtually impossible for staff at the stressed-out Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Stephen Harper alone makes almost all important decisions, so if science is really going to decide Northern Gateway, Harper needs a lesson in Jurassic geology, specifically Canada’s Jurassic islands.
It’s very simple: the same geologic forces that created the Alberta oil-patch, the bitumen sands and the shale gas deposits fracked in Alberta and northeastern BC, will, in the end, if science is even a factor, decide the fate of the Northern Gateway project.
Petroleum geoscientists just love the Western Sedimentary Basin that produced all that lovely oil — all that dirty bitumen and all that possibly money-making natural gas trapped in what was once sea bottom mud. Those petroleum products were created by creatures living, dying and sinking in the shallow seas that stretched as far south as what is now the Gulf of Mexico during the Cretaceous. Those seas and the coastal environment were also home to the tyrannosaurs, horned dinosaurs, “duck billed” herbivores — the fossils now found from northern Alberta to south Texas.
By contrast, Mesozoic geology of northwestern B.C. has been low or no priority. No oil. Only a few fossils of sea creatures such as ammonoids and shellfish. If the public, the media and the politicians are to understand why the geology of northwestern British Columbia is so unstable, and why that makes the Northern Gateway pipeline potentially so dangerous to the environment, they have to know what was happening out west “when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.” ….
What people in the Kitimat region call “Onion Flats,” also known as the Dubose Industrial site, where media mogul David Black hopes to build an oil refinery was, some 10,000 years ago, the edge of the retreating glacier, not unlike some of the glaciers in Alaska you see today (until they melt). That flat land, perhaps suitable for development, was then a giant melt water delta, depositing all the sand and gravel, where the refinery might or might not be built one day.
For all those who in Alberta that keep saying that the people of British Columbia have to be “educated” about pipelines, and just so Stephen Harper is up to date on his science: Those pipelines in Alberta, Saskatchewan and down all the way to Texas are built on land which was once that flat, shallow inland sea. Building a pipeline over smashed, broken, uplifted, twisted Jurassic-era islands, downsized by erosion, lost islands turned into mountains, buried and shaped by kilometres of glacial ice is a completely different story altogether.