Deh Cho say no to pipeline
Other concerns voiced at Fort Simpson public hearing

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Oct 01/99) - Deh Cho First Nations (DCFN) Grand Chief Michael Nadli announced last week that the DCFN is opposed to the construction of a gas pipeline north of Fort Liard.

At the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board public hearings on the matter in Fort Simpson, Nadli suggested there is a risk of pollutants from the pipeline contaminating local water supplies.

It's been substantiated that the world's fresh water supply is already decreasing, he noted.

As well, the DCFN has never recognized the authority of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which allows DIAND to have the "final say" instead of acknowledging aboriginal jurisdiction over the lands.

"Our leaders have consistently opposed the MVRMA," Nadli said, adding that the Deh Cho still stands by its treaty. "We cannot be treated as other claimant groups or as interest groups."

The environmental impact board, he later noted, consisted of people from other regions, who should not be making decisions for the Deh Cho.

Chuck Blyth, superintendent of Nahanni National Park Reserve, urged the board to heed the DCFN self-government process because it will ultimately impact on the park's future.

Community members Percy and Betty Hardisty spoke of environmental damage and illness that they attribute to the existing Pointed Mountain pipeline. Percy Hardisty said he was involved in a Liard basin study in 1995 and he said there was evidence of fish rotting quickly in nets, caribou moving away from the region, the trees and grass "changed somehow," and beavers were losing their hair.

Loche in the Liard River are said to have white livers, making them inedible, Betty Hardisty added. Even if the people on the land are not well-educated in academic terms, they are the experts on the land because they have lived there all of their lives, she said.

"This is our land," she said. "I know it's (Chief) Harry's (Deneron) territory, but this is my elders' land. This is my land."

Further, she expressed misgivings about the absence of royalties flowing into the NWT and the local economy.

Fort Simpson Mayor Norm Prevost asked if the possibility of an earthquake has been considered and the affect that would have on the pipeline.

Chevron engineer Brian Klammer said the pipeline is designed to withstand displacement and there are many safety features built in and a emergency response plan in place. He also noted that the sour gas has a hydrogen sulphide content of less than one per cent as opposed to some areas of Alberta where the gas travelling through the pipes is close to 20 per cent hydrogen sulphide.

Prevost also encouraged the industry representatives to hire Northern contractors and to communicate effectively with local schools to ensure the curricula reflects the needs of the gas industry in terms of future employment opportunities for youth. He also asked whether development will be maintained in the region despite the DCFN's position.

Andrew Gaule, president of the Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce, and Sean Whelly, the village's business development officer, wanted to know if the gas companies would take any responsibility for the condition of the Liard Trail.

Klammer said he didn't know if the gas companies would be willing to take a "proactive role" in fixing the roads as they exist today, but they will be responsible for any damage they cause directly.

Whelly replied, "Everyone's going to pass the buck and, in the end, Fort Simpson is going to have a highway in worse shape than ever... the companies that are hauling the rigs in and out are definitely abusing the highway."