Moratorium on Sacred Headwaters to Expire

In 2008, the BC government put a moratorium on Shell’s coalbed methane gas drilling operations in the Sacred Headwaters. The decision was made to allow for studies to be conducted on the impacts of development on the waterways and to give time for consultation with First Nations and other communities.

The Sacred Headwaters is a region in northern BC where the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena rivers originate. These three rivers are the largest wild salmon runs in the country and stretch over 400km to the Pacific Coast.

The moratorium was initially set for a minimum of two years and a maximum of four. In 2010 the deadline was extended, bringing the expiration date and possible lifting of the moratorium to this December. Those in opposition argue that not enough studies have been completed on the after-effects of fracking, nor have communities had full opportunity to be consulted, nor will they give consent for the projects.

Many groups in BC are ramping up the pressure on the BC government to extend the moratorium, or to enact a permanent one. Among these groups are the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Forest Ethics, Sierra Club BC, Council of Canadians, the David Suzuki Foundation, and others.

Releasing coalbed methane gas requires a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is the process of injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals, and sand into a gas well in order to crack the surrounding rock deep under- ground. There are many concerns around fracking, including groundwater contami- nation, massive use of water, landscape destruction, and air pollution.

Many critics of fracking have also argued that the process leads to induced earthquakes, while the industry argues that there is no scientific evidence for the claim. However, a recent report from the BC Oil and Gas Commission sheds some light on the argument. An investigation into the high frequency of induced seismicity (earthquakes resulting from human activity) in the Horn River Basin show that fluid injection at a well site in proximity to existing faults did cause at least 38 small earthquakes, none of which were felt at the surface. The report also highlights that out of the 8,000 other high-volume hydraulic fracturing projects in the Northeast of BC, the Horn River Basin is the only case they have found to be connected to fracking.

Even without considering the newly found earthquake link, the issues and aftereffects of fracking are illustrated clearly and horrifically in the documentary “Gasland”. To take action and support a full-out moratorium on fracking in the Sacred Headwaters, please visit

Wade Davis sits on the Board of Directors for the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and will be presenting at the PCVS Auditorium in Peterborough on Friday, November 23, 7:30PM. He will be speaking about the need and the struggle to protect the Sacred Headwaters.