Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oilsands Expansion and Chum Salmon in the Mackenzie (Northern News Service)

More research on sustainability needed, says national chief

Laura Busch 
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 24, 2011


People in the NWT have a lot to lose if the United States government approves the extension of a pipeline that will pump crude bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, says Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. 

NNSL photo/graphic

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus participated in Keystone XL protests and U.S. congressional hearings to draw attention to how the proposed pipeline from Northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico will affect NWT lands that are downstream from the oil sands. - NNSL file photo
"(Dene people are concerned) because we are downstream,” he said. “If this pipeline is approved, then that means they will expand the tar sands.”
Erasmus has been actively opposing the projects, travelling to Ottawa on Sept. 26 to participate in the protests against the Keystone XL expansion project. He also participated in the congressional hearings – and coinciding protest – in Washington, D.C. from Oct. 5 to Oct. 7.

“An extension means more tailings ponds and more use of water and we're feeling the effects,” said Erasmus on why he participated in these events. “The tailings ponds, they're toxic. There is something to the effect of 700 square miles of tailings ponds in Alberta and they leech into the water and into the environment, and we still don't know the effects of that.
“In our meeting with the Secretary of State, they told us that they have commissioned an independent body to look at the risk assessment, which we believe is a good thing because it's detached from industry and it's detached from government,” said Erasmus. “And it helps them look at the risks involved, which includes the downstream risks.”

Erasmus brought a document called the Mother Earth Accord to the hearing in the United States. Created at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Emergency Summit held in Sept. 2011, the accord, which calls for a moratorium on oil sands development, contains 21 declarations, including one that points to a study by the National Academy of Sciences that states the oil sands has leeched at least 13 toxic pollutants – including lead and arsenic – into the Athabasca river, “which flows 3,000 miles downstream to the Arctic Ocean,” it reads.The study contradicts industry claims that increased contamination is from natural sources.

Read Full Post HERE

Researchers link increased numbers to global warming

Laura Busch 
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011

This fall, there have been more salmon harvested farther down the Mackenzie River than any time in recent memory, say residents along the Mackenzie Delta. 
NNSL photo/graphic

Chum salmon – similar to these caught this year in the Norman Wells area – have been running on the Makcenzie River in the fall for many years. However this year’s unprecedented number of salmon have researchers and community members wondering where they all came from. - photo courtesy of Keith Hickling
“Years ago. Once in a while there’s lots, sometimes there’s hardly anything. This year there’s lots, but before it wasn’t like that,” said Wilfred Jackson, a fisherman in Fort Good Hope. “Everybody is catching salmon now.”
University of Manitoba student Karen Dunmall began a PhD project about salmon on the Mackenzie River this summer – just in time to witness the impressive run of salmon and collect a large sample for her tests.

Dunmall was not expecting the large numbers of salmon this year. In fact, she said when she initially contacted Beaufort Delta communities to ask people to participate in the project and turn in any salmon they harvested this year, “the most common response that I got was 'that sounds like a nice project but there are no salmon around,'” she said. “And so, people were surprised at how many there were this year and it was good timing for this project to start up and the salmon to arrive all at the same time."

As far as why there are so many salmon in the river this year, Dunmall says it is likely an effect of global warming creating more spawning areas for the fish. Adult salmon lay their eggs in sandy areas of a riverbed; if the river freezes to the bottom, the eggs die.

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