SJI could soon be known for tankers, not orcas | Letter

The Journal article on the death of J-34 (“Orca from Salish Sea found dead in Canada”) reports that the Salish Sea has the “features needed for [the] conservation” of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.” This is true only as long as those features are protected. One of the biggest threats to our Salish Sea, and therefore the whales, is the recently approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

This pipeline will transport Alberta tar sands crude oil (particularly heavy, toxic oil also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit”) to Vancouver B.C. where it will be loaded onto tankers. As approved, 348 more tankers per year will travel the west side of our islands on their way to the U.S. and potentially Asian refineries. Many Canadians are advocating for rerouting the pipeline to a Washington State refinery, which would export the tar sands through Rosario Strait, along our east and southern shores. Either way, we – and the orcas – are surrounded.

Whether it’s noise pollution that would hinder the whales’ search for food, or ship strikes (which may have been the cause of death for J-34), or oil spills that decimate the whales’ food supply (and our tourist economy). Of all the new and proposed terminal projects in the Salish Sea, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion would cause the greatest oil spill risk: a 9-fold (800 percent) increase of a 20,000 barrel or larger spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait/Boundary Pass.

Oil spill cleanup is impossible, so if it’s important to you to prevent any additional hazards to the orcas’ already fragile existence, then please write to Governor Inslee and tell him ( Islanders need to urge our governor to enact strong legislation that will protect the Salish Sea from the threats that this pipeline and other such projects will bring to our waters – unless we want to be known as a highway for tankers instead of a healthy home for orcas. For more information on increased shipping in the Salish Sea, please visit the safe shipping page on the Friends of the San Juans’ website (

Shaun Hubbard

San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping