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Trans Mountain pipeline work destroyed salmon habitat, scientist says

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Work on a Trans Mountain pipeline crossing in a British Columbia stream has destroyed salmon habitat, raising concerns about the Crown corporation’s ability to build infrastructure through waterways if the expansion project proceeds, a scientist says.

Mike Pearson says the “amateur hour” work on the Stewart Creek crossing in Chilliwack will reduce food sources for coho and chum salmon and limit their ability to hide from predators. The fish are part of the diet of endangered southern resident killer whales.

“There was no consideration given whatsoever to the habitat, which is just not acceptable,” said Pearson, a biologist with 30 years’ experience, in an interview.

Concrete blocks exposed

Trans Mountain Corp. filed documents with the National Energy Board showing its plans to cover exposed pipe in Fraser Valley creek. It wrote that it would place concrete mats in the channel, extending about eight metres upstream and nine metres downstream of the exposed line, and cover it with small stones.

Pearson said the work was completed in August to September of last year. He visited the site in December and took photos that he says show most of the stones have been swept away by currents, leaving the concrete blocks exposed.

“The work has degraded habitat in several ways,” he wrote in an assessment filed with the energy board by intervener Yarrow Ecovillage.

The Trans Mountain pipeline crossing in Stewart Creek in Chilliwack, B.C., on Dec. 12, 2018 in this handout photo. (Mike Pearson/The Canadian Press/HO)

The smooth, hard concrete provides no hiding places for salmon, supports very few of the aquatic invertebrates they feed on, inhibits plant growth and prevents fish from burying their eggs, the document says.

Pearson believes it’s not an isolated incident. An assessment he did of a pipeline creek crossing on Sumas Mountain in 2015 for Pipe Up Network, an anti-pipeline group, concluded the site was physically unstable and reconstructed with materials inappropriate to restoring habitat.

A stream-keeper has also raised concerns about excavation at Trans Mountain’s terminal in Burnaby. John Preissl has filed several complaints with the energy board alleging the work has caused sediment to fall into two salmon-bearing creeks.

Federal and provincial officials inspected the terminal in April and found improperly installed sediment and erosion control measures. A follow-up energy board report concluded Trans Mountain had fixed the problems by the end of November.

Trans Mountain responds

Trans Mountain said in a statement that the BC Oil and Gas Commission approved its Stewart Creek work and found no issues in site inspections during and after construction.

It said a third-party engineer designed the plan to protect the exposed line and conducted a study to ensure it would not impede fish passage. Environmental plans were created and work was monitored full-time by a qualified environmental professional, it said.

As for Pearson’s 2015 criticism of the Sumas Mountain crossing, Trans Mountain said an independent environmental consultant completed an assessment and made a management plan. The work was monitored by an environmental professional and the oil and gas commission found no issues.

It also said “extensive” sediment control measures and mitigation efforts are in place at its Burnaby terminal.

An aerial view of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain marine terminal, in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. John Preissl, a stream-keeper, has lodged several complaints with the National Energy Board saying excavation work by Trans Mountain has caused sediment to fall into two salmon-bearing creeks. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The corporation added that field crews investigated all potential watercourse crossings for its expansion project even before it applied to the energy board for approval.

“The information gleaned from this fieldwork allows us to avoid or minimize impact to fish and fish habitat during pipeline construction,” it said, adding environmental inspectors will monitor construction.

10 conditions relate to fish

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has purchased the pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion.

The expansion would triple the capacity of the existing line that runs from the Edmonton area to Burnaby. The energy board completed its first review in 2016 and recommended the government approve the project with 157 conditions.

In its report, the board wrote the watercourse crossing plans “would effectively reduce the extent of effects on fish and fish habitat.”

Ten conditions relate to fish, including that the company must file details on the presence of fish and fish habitat with the board before starting construction on watercourse crossings.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government purchased the pipeline and expansion, says he is still committed to building the Trans Mountain expansion project. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Most of the conditions are “a plan to make a plan,” argued Eugene Kung, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law.

“They don’t have any actual measurable effect on the outcome.”

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the project’s approval in August in part due to the board’s failure to consider marine shipping impacts. The government ordered the board to conduct a new review looking at this issue and produce a report by Feb. 22.

Evidence filed late

Scientists and environmentalists say the new review, which is limited to 12 nautical miles off B.C.’s coast, is neglecting the streams and rivers that support salmon.

Board spokesman James Stevenson said it will consider all evidence on the record relevant to assessing impacts of project-related marine shipping, including but not limited to impacts on southern resident killer whales.

“Some parties have filed evidence regarding (southern resident) prey, including salmon,” he said.

The board rejected Pearson’s evidence because Yarrow Ecovillage filed it nine days after a December deadline, but the board noted the evidence “may have some relevance as it pertains to salmon, which is a food source of the (southern residents).”

Chinook salmon comprise roughly 80 per cent of southern resident orca diet in the summer, but chum, coho and steelhead trout make up about 14 to 18 per cent, and little is known of their winter diet, said Pearson in his filing with the energy board.

Paul Spong, founder of Orca Lab research station on Vancouver Island, said chum are the whales’ second choice after chinook, adding that starvation is the biggest threat to their survival.

“Anything that interferes with salmon using river systems is detrimental to the orcas.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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