Mackenzie Valley Pipeline
The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline was first proposed in the 1970s to direct natural gas from the Beaufort Sea to markets both in Canada and the United States. Justice Thomas Berger was appointed to head an inquiry to explore the effect the pipeline would have on the physical landscape and the area's residents. When Berger delivered his report, Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, in 1977 he recommended a 10 year moratorium on the project. Within that time, he suggested further studies be conducted to examine the potential impact of the pipeline, as well as ensuring the settlement of local native land claims. Thirty years later the project has regained momentum and is currently awaiting the results of ongoing public hearings and joint review panel decisions.
How do residents of the Mackenzie Delta feel about the construction of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline?
"People are in overall favour of the pipeline because they see the benefits of diversifying the economy."
— Peter Clarkson
Director of the Inuvik region for the Northwest Territories government.
"It scares me. If you understand it all and are prepared for it, OK. But we're not prepared for it, and there will be so much social impact. Who will be there to take care of that?"
— Mary Teya
Anglican Deacon and Interpreter/Translator.
The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline will start near Inuvik and extend 1,220 kilometres south along the delta and join with pipelines in Northern Alberta. The planned route crosses more than 500 waterways and runs through heavily forested areas. In November 2004, the advocates of the Mackenzie Gas Project released an Environmental Impact Statement to address the potential problems the construction of the pipeline might cause. Although the report offers solutions to problems such as land erosion, groundwater flow, permafrost, wildlife loss, and protected areas, many critics found gaps in the research. The Pembina Institute noted that the EIS only accounted for one third of the gas fields in the project. Pembina, along with other organizations such as the Sierra Club of Canada and Ecology North, are pushing for the current Joint Review Panel to consider the impact of the pipeline would have on global warming. Their new quest is to have a "green pipeline" that would conform to the Kyoto standards by using renewable, clean energy.
Examples of potential problems from the pipeline's construction:
- Altering the land's surface could lead to permafrost melt, or conversely, lead to areas more prone to freezing. As a result the ground may experience sagging or sinking and leave increased potential for flooding. Land alteration would also result in a loss of vegetation, potentially eliminating some species.
- The construction of the pipeline will interrupt water flow, not just lakes and rivers, but groundwater as well. Alteration of lakes and rivers could change the quality of the water as well as upset fish habitats. The disruption of groundwater flow can have an impact on the source of freshwater for waterways, but also be a trigger for erosion.
- Protected wildlife areas, such as the Kendall Island Migration Bird Sanctuary, will be affected because the pipeline will run through part of it. For both protected and unprotected areas, the project may disrupt animal habitats. Construction noise may deter the migration patterns of some species and the pipeline itself may act as a physical barrier above ground. Increased animal death is also a cause for concern, as curious animals could be seen as problematic to pipeline workers and therefore killed.
- The construction and use of the pipeline will raise greenhouse gas emissions in Northwest Territories by an estimated 44 percent. In addition, every year gas from the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline is burned, 25 million tons of carbon dioxide will be emitted into the atmosphere.