MP, Locals talk water.

MP Nathan Cullen and conservationist Wayne Salewski were in Fort St. James for a conference on watershed stewardship.

As part of a province-wide tour to promote his new bill banning the use of oil supertankers from northern coastal waters, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Nathan Cullen, stopped by the Fort St. James fire hall, along with Vanderhoof conservationist Wayne Salewski, to talk about watershed stewardship.

Cullen attended the meeting to talk about his proposed bill titled Take Back our Coast, which is a bill in opposition of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that aims to ban Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) oil tankers from the coastal waters of northern British Columbia as well as increase the level of input that the public has in pipeline decisions in British Columbia.

“228 of these VLCC’s would travel along the Douglas Channel each year,” said Cullen in regards to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline should it be completed.

Cullen cited many issues regarding VLCC traffic along a route as complex as the Channel and the risks associated with a spill of diluted bitumen in our watersheds. He noted that diluted bitumen, when weathered (meaning moved about by waves or high winds) actually sinks and becomes impossible to clean up.

Similarly he referenced the recent close-call with the russian oil tanker Simushir and the local tugboats difficulty in containing that situation.

“The tows used on the Simushir to bring that in were ineffective because they kept snapping because they were not equipped for that size of a ship and these VLCC”s are much bigger.”

Due to the Conservative majority government, in order for Cullen’s bill to pass he needs to convince 10 conservative MP’s to change their stance on the Enbridge pipeline.

Salewski, a noted conservationist with decades of experience restoring watersheds and wetlands in the Bulkley-Nechako region attended the meeting to talk about one of his many organizations NEWSS and the opportunity to involve Fort St. James and their watersheds in the program as well.

Salewski said that the genesis of his work restoring watersheds came from living on the banks of the Nechako river.

“The stream restoration issue came from the frustration of living on the Nechako River for 35 years and never seeing my children catch a fish – it was as simple as that,” he said.

Salewski outlined  the history of his work with the Murray Creek watershed and the success stories of engaging the local populous.

Through his NEWSS organization Salewski and others have managed to find a large amount of funding for their work and was hoping to engage the Fort St. James community in the organization as well.

The meeting was organized but Emily Colombo, who works with the district of Fort St. James, and was attended by a dozen or so community members including Fort St. James Mayor Rob MacDougall and municipal council candidates Kris Neilsen and Brenda Gouglas.

After both presentations the floor was opened to an exchange of ideas between concerned community members about the watersheds in Fort St. James and how the community can address the problems and protect the watershed systems in their area and at large.