Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Geomorphology report highlights pipeline concerns

October 13, 2011

A report released this month by the Bulkley Valley Research Centre in Smithers outlines the landslide risks of locating a pipeline through unstable terrain in northern B.C.

According to Smithers-based geomorphologist Jim Schwab, author of Hillslope and Fluvial Processes Along the Proposed Pipeline Corridor, the terrain is complex and destructive landslides are common. He says a pipeline break would be inevitable and that these risks require further evaluation.

“The unstable mountainous terrain across west-central B.C. is not a safe location for pipelines. Eventually a landslide will sever a pipeline,” Schwab says. “An alternative safer route through B.C. needs investigation.”

The report was funded through the Bulkley Valley Research Centre and examines three distinct regions: the Nechako Plateau, the Hazelton Mountains and the Kitimat Ranges. “These topographically distinct units are defined by present day landforms, erosion and landslides,” Schwab says. “As a result, they present different hazards to the pipeline.”

According to the report, landslide risk is minor in the plateau country, but the mountainous regions have a history of landslides, including three documented large landslides within the Hazelton Range that severed a natural gas pipeline since its construction in the early 1970s. Most unstable, the report says, are the Kitimat Ranges, where steep, narrow valleys have experienced landslides powerful enough to rupture pipelines during extreme rainstorms in 1978 and 1992.

Schwab was the recipient of the Bulkley Valley Research Centre’s 2009 Jim Pojar Award for his co-authored report linking climate change to large landslides in northern B.C. His recent report can be found on the Bulkley Valley Research Centre website (see link below).

“The Bulkley Valley Research Centre is very pleased to be in the position to provide this information to the public,” research program manager Rick Budhwa said. “It represents what we stand for as an organization. We provide objective research and science in the public interest.”

The Bulkley Valley Research Centre is a Smithers-based not-for-profit organization that aims to improve knowledge of natural resource sustainability by facilitating credible research projects across British Columbia. For more information, please contact research program manager Rick Budhwa at 250-847-2827250-847-2827 or by email.

Link to Report:
Hillslope and Fluvial Processes Along the Proposed Pipeline Corridor, Burns Lake to Kitimat, West Central British Columbia