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Clearing the air

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Nov 15/04) - The Mackenzie Valley pipeline is still in the planning stages, but already misconceptions abound.

"Is the same company that was responsible for the oil spill in Alaska involved in the pipeline project?" asked an Inuvik resident at an information meeting last month.

The reference was being made to the oil tanker Exxon Valdez that spilled 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound in 1989.

While Exxon is involved in the project, this and other similar questions indicate people don't know that much about the natural gas project.

Suzan Marie, manager of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group (APG) communications team, is trying to answer these questions and sell the project to the communities she visits.

"There are a lot of misconceptions (about the pipeline) and some don't know how to look at the APG as a business deal separate from access and benefits," Marie said.

Marie said being a one-third owner of the pipeline will place aboriginal interests front and centre in the decision-making process.

To set the record straight, the project proposes two pipelines: one 30-inch natural gas pipe to be built from the Mackenzie Delta to Alberta and another 10-inch pipe for liquid gas that will hook into an existing pipe at Norman Wells.

For the last two years, Morris O'Bryan, senior pipeline engineer for ColtKBR -- contracted to the Mackenzie Gas Project -- has been working to establish a route for the proposed pipeline.

"We wanted to avoid lakes and cross rivers and streams at shallow locations where possible, to minimize the environmental impact," he said.

O'Bryan says concerns particular to this region include the pipeline's proximity to Travaillant Lake -- a traditional hunting and fishing area southeast of Inuvik.