Report paints grim picture for Babine Lake

B.C. Supreme Court has not yet reached a decision regarding Pacific Booker Minerals law suit.

Members of the Lake Babine First Nation fisheries crew haul in sockeye during last year’s Lake Babine salmon harvest. Early returns do not bode well for this year’s season.

The B.C. Supreme Court has not yet reached a decision regarding Pacific Booker Minerals (PBM) law suit which challenges the province’s 2012 rejection of the proposed Morrison copper and gold mine project.

The project as proposed would have been located 35 kms north of Granisle, near the shores of Morrison Lake, which feeds into Babine Lake.

The PBM law suit alleges that the province acted unfairly when it denied PBM environmental approval for its mine project on Oct. 1, 2012.

The provincial environmental assessment process had concluded with a report detailing how the project met or exceeded required environmental considerations as well as satisfying the duty to consult with First Nations.

The environmental assessment process, which began years before the province filed its report, had a rocky start with Lake Babine Nation (LBN) who rely on the sockeye salmon harvest in Babine Lake for sustenance and commercial use.

The close of the environmental review process saw strong  and vociferous opposition from the Skeena Fisheries Commission (SFC), a Kispiox-based fisheries resource centre supported by several area First Nations (see Lakes District News Nov. 14, 2012 for more information).

Without specifically acknowledging the opposition of the SFC, the executive director of the B.C. environmental assessment office (EAO) did not follow the recommendations of his staff environmental assessment report and instead recommended against the project.

Ministers Terry Lake and Rich Coleman followed the executive director’s recommendation and, on Oct. 1, 2012, denied the project an Environmental Assessment Certificate based on threats to sockeye salmon population in the Skeena watershed, threats to the long-term health of Morrison Lake, and the possibility of long-term liabilities that might be assumable by the province.

With this year’s low sockeye salmon return throughout the Skeena watershed, including Babine Lake, the effects of past mining activity near Granisle have been called into question.

On July 25, 2013, LBN Chief Wilf Adam called into question the effects resource extraction has had on the Babine Lake fishery.

“They dump mine tailings into our lake, [and] strip forests from along our streams,” Adam said. He described this year’s salmon return as the lowest in ‘living memory’.

Erik Tornquist, PBM director, recently called attention to a 2012 Fisheries and Oceans Canada report that challenges the notion that the sockeye return has never been as low as this year, or that previous mining activity should shoulder the blame for the low return.

The report, titled ‘Update Assessment of Sockeye Salmon Production from Babine lake, British Columbia’, was prepared by the Prince Rupert Fisheries and Oceans Canada North Coast Stock Assessment Unit.

It reports that the actual lowest recorded sockeye return on Babine Lake was in 1955, with a return of only 71,352 sockeye.

This was previous to the operation of the Granisle mine from 1966 to 1982, and the Bell mine from 1972 to 1992. Some of the largest returns, according to the data, occurred during the active life of the Bell mine.

The report cites the complexity of the factors influencing sockeye return on Babine Lake, and it does not discount the possibility that the cumulative effect of logging and mining in the area may have affected current returns.

“Permitted discharge from the ponds has been entering Babine Lake since the mines closed,” the report reads. “No significant changes in water quality as a result of the tailings ponds have been reported but the potential long-term affects on fish production have been questioned by the Lake Babine First Nation”

Clearcut logging in the area, and the resulting downstream sedimentation, has also been identified as a possible contributor to lowered sockeye returns through impeded access to spawning sites.

What this means for PBM’s case is not clear, as the environmental facts of the matter are not in dispute.

“The court hearing did not deal with the technical issues related to the environmental assessment as Pacific Booker [has already] passed the environmental test,” Tornquist said.

What the report does confirm is that the steady decline in the sockeye return on Babine Lake, which supplies 90 per cent of sockeye in the entire Skeena watershed, continues, is not fully understood, and may be irreversible.

“Babine Lake sockeye returns have been on a declining trend for most of the 2000s, down from the previous highs seen through the 1980s and most of the 1990s,” the report concludes. “It is not known when (or if) a return to higher sockeye production from Babine Lake might be expected…”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This photo of approximately 10 years ago shows Laureen Fabian, on the left, and daughter Caterina Andrews. Fabian went missing last October and her daughter is looking for answers. (Contributed photo)
Laureen Fabian’s disappearance remains a mystery

It’s been a year since she went missing

Adam Schmidt is currently at the BC Children’s Hospital. (GoFundMe/Laurel Miller)
Community comes together for a 15 year old Burns Laker admitted at BC Children’s hospital

A fundraising campaign to support the family is being run now

Last year’s Halloween saw a sunny day and in-person costume contests. (Blair McBride photo)
What’s Burns Lakes’ spooktacular plan for this Halloween?

Trick or treating, online contests and more for this season

WKE students pose with carpentry tools in front of the ADST trailer that will allow the school to have a fully operational mobile wood shop. (Karen Ware photo/Lakes District News)
William Konkin Elementary school undertakes project to teach intentional kindness

Students to learn to build crates, grow produce and share it with community

Daylight savings time ends at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1 2020. (File Photo)
Clocks ‘fall back’ one hour Saturday night

Remember to set your clock back one hour on Saturday night, as… Continue reading

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Most Read