Canada’s wildest big river is threatened by the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project in the Northwest Territories. The Mackenzie Valley, home of the 1800 km long Mackenzie River, as well as the Mackenzie Delta, the world’s fourth largest Arctic delta, will be transformed permanently if this project gets the go-ahead.
The construction of the pipeline would inevitably cause significant ecological destruction along the right-of-way. Much boreal forest and taiga in the undammed and mainly unroaded Mackenzie Valley would be clear-cut and heavy machinery deployed to construct the industrial infrastructure needed to extract and transport the natural gas. Increased sediment deposition into the rivers and streams of the valley would result from constructing pipeline crossings, thus harming fish and fish habitat.. Six internationally recognized Important Bird Areas (IBAs) occurring along or near the Mackenzie River are breeding or staging areas for millions of geese, tundra swans and other migratory birds.
Imperial Oil and Shell Canada, two of the MGP proponents, plan to develop the Taglu and Niglintgak gas fields (respectively) in the Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Kendall Island is the breeding grounds for many of the 100 species of migratory birds present in the Mackenzie Delta, as well as the highly endangered Eskimo Curlew.
The Mackenzie Gas Project would fragment the habitat of grizzly bears, woodland caribou and wolves, destroy forests and wetlands, and prejudice the creation of protected areas. Forests would be clear cut and heavy machinery deployed to construct the infrastructure and the new underground pipelines which would tunnel under or cross 580 rivers and streams along the way.
The Project would trigger a rush of oil and gas development in the Mackenzie Valley, which would accelerate further damage to wildlife and ecosystems.
The Mackenzie Gas Project will also result in greenhouse gas emissions both from theburning of fossil fuels by heavy equipment and in operations, but also from the cutting of boreal forests, destruction of wetlands, and melting of permafrost. Ironically, the effects of climate change are expected to be more severe in the Mackenzie Valley than in other parts of Canada. . Even now, thawing permafrost is collapsing roads and buildings. Warmer, drier summers are causing the worst forest fires ever. Infestations of southern insects, especially the spruce budworm, are likely. Depletion of Arctic sea ice will likely push polar bears, walrus and some seals into extinction within fifty years.