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Expert has concerns about Petronas’ new design

Environmentalists worry that Petronas' new design will still have serious impacts on Flora Bank

Dr. Patrick McLaren is a geologist and a leader in the field of sediment transport and sedimentation dynamics.  He is working to analyze the sedimentary processes associated with the waters surrounding Prince Rupert and particularly Flora Bank, an area of critical importance to the salmon populations of the Skeena River, the second largest salmon river in Canada.  Dr. McLaren’s research is geared to understanding how the Petronas LNG project will impact this unusual sand formation which contains 40-60% of the Skeena estuary eelgrass and lies between Lelu Island and Petronas’ access to deep water.

Despite exposure to high energy waves and locally strong currents the bank has remained surprisingly stable over a very long period.  Dr. McLaren cannot yet predict the impact the proposed large berth structure might have on the bank but hopes to do so following completion of his research on the local sediment dynamics which he expects to have finished by late December. Preliminary results, however, suggest some cause for concern.

Dr. McLaren believes it is possible that Flora Bank is held in place in part by high energy waves which restore any sand which migrates off the bank.  If that dynamic is in fact taking place, the trellis docking structure of Petronas’ new design could severely reduce the incoming wave energy enabling sand from the bank to migrate seawards resulting in the gradual deterioration of this important habitat. Furthermore, reduction of energy levels might favour the deposition of mud on the bank reducing the ability for eel grass to grow.

There are numerous other concerns about the project; for instance, scientists have voiced concern that shading from the proposed long wide roadway over the relatively small but critical eelgrass meadow will kill the light sensitive marine plants.  The new design includes a bridge over Flora Bank which would be wider than a four lane highway and runs 1.2 km over the bank itself.  Right from the beginning Petronas has been warned that they should find another site; there is a strong sentiment in the region that a fragile and important area like Flora Bank is no place for a large industrial development.