The Skeena River snakes out of fir-lined fjords on the misty northern coast of British Columbia, and washes over a thousand-acre sandbar. Flora Bank is a biological bottleneck over which millions of finger-length young salmon enter the sea each spring. Scientist Allen Gottesfeld calls Flora Bank the “Grand Central Station” for the watershed. All streams in the Skeena system lead here.
One of the last great undammed salmon systems in Canada, the Skeena still supports five Pacific salmon species. It has yielded some of the biggest Chinook and steelhead ever recorded. Its fish feed indigenous First Nations, and supply sport and commercial fisheries up and down the British Columbian and Alaskan coasts. And Skeena help underpin the food chain for the world-renowned Great Bear rainforest, a 250-mile long archipelago of islands and coastal enclaves populated by white “spirit bears,” supersized bald eagles, and healthy pods of orcas. That all makes Flora Bank one of the most important stretches of salmon habitat on the West Coast.
And yet Canada’s Trudeau administration is now conidering granting permission to a conglomerate of Asian state oil companies to build an $11.4 billion liquefied natural gas cooling and export terminal over Flora Bank. One of the most threatening components in the project is a Golden Gate-sized bridge that would be built over the bar to carry processed gas from neighboring Lelu Island out to waiting ships. Scientific studies suggest the enormous towers for the bridge could permanently alter the countervailing forces of tides, wind, and river current that have created and sustained Flora Bank for thousands of years. The heavy dredging, drilling and blasting during the bridge and terminal’s construction threaten enormous impact.