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Monkeywrenching the Batholiths - Ingmar Lee

by Ingmar Lee

This morning at 8:00am, July 14/09, I proceeded to the Denny Island aerodrome, located on Denny Island in the midst of the BC Central Coast archipelago, aka "The Great Bear Rainforest" where I broke open the welded steel cover and dismantled and destroyed a large seismic shot which was slated for blasting in the early morning hours of July 17th, 2009. I took this action alone, without the participation or knowledge of any other person, association or organization. I accept full and sole responsibilty for my action and look forward to the consequences.

"Batholiths Station # 35", Denny Island BC, (see map) was drilled to a depth of 50 metres and loaded with between 600 and 1000 kilograms of dynamite according to personal communications with Dr. John Hole of the Dept. of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, chief proponent of the "Batholiths Onland Seismic Program 2009". The shot was scheduled to be detonated as part of a chain of as many as 50 similar blast sites arrayed between Denny Island, along Dean and Burke Channels, through the Bella Coola valley, across the Chilcotin all the way to Quesnel, BC.




 I took this action for the following reasons,

a) there has been no prior community information, consultation or discussion whatsoever with anyone here on Denny Island (pop approx.80) regarding this massive detonation. It was only after the arrival of the drills that people became aware that something was up. By the time anyone learned anything, the hole had been drilled and irreversibly loaded with its enormous charge. Dr. Hole has written that his expectation was that the Shearwater Resort, Heiltsuk Nation and the CRD had accepted responsibility to communicate details of the project to the various affected communities. A Shearwater Resort spokesman acknowledged that their tug and barge had been contracted to deliver drills to the island several weeks ago, but beyond that, they had no knowledge of the project. He asserted to me that the Shearwater Resort had not been approached, nor had they undertaken any commitment to handle any sort of Public Relations process to describe the project to the local community. I believe that it is unlikely that the Heiltsuk Nation or CRD have any agreement with the Batholiths proponents to disseminate information, or to conduct any PR process, -at any rate, nobody in our community has been informed or knew anything about it. I live with my family within 1 km of the blast site, as do numerous neighbours. Apparently their intention was to simply shock us out of our beds.

b) the previous incarnation of the project (Batholiths Marine Seismic Program 2007) was terminated, -basically because people did not want to see our whales driven screaming onto the beach with bleeding eardrums as a result of ocean-based seismic-source concussions. In fact, Canada's National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) withdrew funding for Batholiths 2007 based on these concerns. I believe that the proponents of the current project have been purposely secretive, are extremely negligent and have avoided informing local communites about their latest scheme, -perhaps on account of having failed to complete their first effort because of public concern.

c) there are at least 5 Sandhill crane nests within 2 kilometres of the Denny Island blast site. Local Sandhills have only recently hatched their chicks which are currently in their most vulnerable pre-flight stage. As a 3rd-year field assistant on the "Coastal Sandhill Crane Research Project" I can attest to the extreme sensitivity of these cranes. We receive more reports of local crane sightings from the Denny Island aerodrome than from any other location in our study area. Additionally, the Denny Island blast site is within 1 kilometre of the significant Kajustus salmon system, locally known for its sockeye salmon. From what information is available, no research is being conducted to monitor the effects of such a massive blast on Sandhills, birds of any species, salmonid eggs, fry, fish or any other wildlife. Additionally, no study, no research is available from the proponents which demonstrates a prior understanding of whatever effects there may be.

d) recently, the "Great Bear Rainforest" was recognized as a significant tract of intact primaeval wilderness which warranted special environmental protection. Recently, the Campbell BC government and several collaborative environmental organizations announced that they had developed a plan which would see future developments in the GBR were to be managed according to a set of principles designated "Ecosystem Based Management." While many of us in the BC environmental community see this deal as simply a Greenwash PR ploy which does little to protect this areas magnificent wilderness, nevertheless, it was purported that all development in this area now requires extensive community consultation and discussion in local communities, and in particular with First Nation communities. This latest incarnation of the Batholiths Seismic scheme clearly entirely fails to respect these principles.

I have personally requested Dr. Hole to at least withdraw the Denny Island hole from his blast program. He has refused to answer this request. Today, a large amount of seismic equipment was unloaded here on Denny Island. Given the secrecy of the project, the absence of public information, discussion or consultation, given the reckless and careless approach they have taken with even the most basic environmental concerns, I say the entire project should be scrapped. It just happens that I worked extensively in the seismic business as a teenager and am well familiar with the effects of terrestrial seismic blasting. A typical seismic shot conducted in Alberta would be about 1 kg of dynamite down a 30 metre hole. The resulting thump can be easily felt from 3 kms away, and material was frequently ejected from the holes aftershooting. I have no idea what could happen with a 1000 kg shot at 50 metres depth, but I have genuine fears of rocks raining down on my house. Dr. Hole himself even informs me that there is potential for a crater.

Tragically, there has been no time or opportunity to mobilize a less drastic opposition to the project. It is for all these reasons that I took action to destroy their hole.

For our Sandhill cranes, and this magnificent primaeval wilderness,


Ingmar Lee
Box 60
Denny Island, BC

I include the following email discussion I have had with Dr. Hole:

Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2009 18:49:17 -0700
To: <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subject: [bcenvirowatch] Proponents of the massive GBR "Batholiths" seismic blast justify their project

Hi everyone,

Recently I posted notice of the massive seismic blast of approximately 1000 kgs of dynamite which is set to be detonated in the early morning hours of July 17 here on Denny Island, and at as many as 50 other locations between here and Quesnel. Here (following) is a correspondence chain I've been having with the chief proponent, Dr. John Hole of the University of Virginia. There hasn't been any public consultation, nobody here knew anything about it.

Frankly, I am disgusted and outraged about the blast, ~we've been observing 5 Sandhill crane nests over the years within 2 kms of the blast site. Most of our local crane sighting reports are of cranes seen around the airport. Our floathouse is anchored within a km of the blast site) Everybody around here that I've talked to around here (which is nearly everybody in the community) is equally disgusted. Locals are also very concerned about the effect of the blast on the fish, fry and eggs in nearby salmon systems. I have asked tham to at least cancel the Denny Island blast, but so far it looks like they will try to proceed.

Our Sandhill crane project, as should any research project, has complied with all the expected protocols for conducting research in FN territory, -we asked for, and received permission, we have made presentations to council, we have hired and paid for local FN field assistants and we have demonstrated that our project is beneficial to the community.

I am not satisifed that the Batholiths project has bothered with any of this. I am particularly disgusted that these people expected they could just sneak in here, secretly drill holes and conduct these blasts, especially here in the heart of the purportedly protected GBR, without having bothered to do the basic local due diligence.

The date is approaching very fast, but it would be great if people could mobilize our friends of the environment in Bella Coola, and all across the Chilcotin to stop this nonsense, because they have, no doubt, also been kept in the dark about this too.

Cheers,  Ingmar



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Hole <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 2009/7/12
Subject: Re: Great Bear Rainforest Seismic Shot: Batholiths On Land Seismic Program mid-July, 2009
To: Ingmar <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Cc: John Hole <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, George Spence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Mr. Lee,
I understand your distrust of government.  We are not "them".  We are not the petroleum industry either.  We are university scientists, who, for purely scientific reasons, submitted funding proposals to study mountain-building processes - to us this is a really cool part of nature.  Our budgets are definitely not massive - to the point where our crew is mostly unpaid student volunteers.  Our science will be student research projects, published in public online journals.  Since the research is about the wrong type of rocks (granite), it will not be useful to petroleum companies.  
Government employees working at the lowest local levels usually are not "them" either; these folks are more likely to be the whistle blowers.  The government employee scientists who reviewed and approved the environmental-biological aspects of our proposal are based in Bella Coola (DFO and MinEnv) and Williams Lake (MinEnv).  They seem pretty "green" to me - they sure asked a lot of questions and cancelled/shrunk a few of our proposed shots for good environmental reasons that only a local would know.  We were happy to comply.  
The marine Batholiths was not shut down due to the potential for marine damage.  A permit was neither denied nor approved.  We withdrew our application because the government permit process would take longer than the lifetime of our budgets.  
When we withdrew our marine application in 2007, we informed all of the groups / organizations / agencies with whom we were in contact that we intended to propose a land project.  We communicated about the marine and the land projects in the same manner, assuming the outreach would be equally effective - it worked for the marine.   There was no attempt at secrecy.  
It is unfortunate that the CCRD, Shearwater Resort, and Heiltsuk Nation did not inform your community about the land.  We thought that they did. I can only guess that they were so unconcerned that they did not think they needed to.  
Is there an alternate organization with whom we should be in contact?  
Regarding monitoring, we are set up to quantitatively monitor ground shaking - that's our expertise.  Sound in the water comes from the ground shaking (not from the air "whump" noise), so we can calculate water noise.  We would be pleased to cooperate with anybody who wishes to monitor biological reactions, but all relevant agencies and local organizations have said there was no need.  This is not meant as an excuse, but context matters:  routine local operations regularly cause more wildlife disturbance than us.  Would you like to set up a scientific monitoring?  
Thank-you for your communications - and your honest emotions.  Unfortunately many of your impressions of us and the project are poorly informed.  It is very unfortunate that the local organizations did not communicate with you.  
ps. I am a Canadian citizen, but I live and teach in Virginia.  If you think your government is bad... 

On Jul 12, 2009, at 1:33 PM, Ingmar wrote:

Hi Mr. Hole,

It's hard not to be perturbed when such a seemingly massive project arrives suddenly unannounced at ones doorstep, and especially in the midst one of the most magnificent and untrammeled wilderness areas which remain on this beleagured planet. And very regretably, your assurances that your project won't have any environmental consequences at all, on account that it has passed muster with our federal and provincial authorities does utterly nothing to assuage our fears and concerns about it. In your part of the world, you may have just elected a progressive and visionary new government which has some credibility in its environmental efforts, but here in Canada, and in BC, we continue to endure the most regressive, environmentally illiterate Bush-style Neocon governments. It may be difficult for you to appreciate continual government-sanctioned development onslaught that would ravage this amazing area, but we face a steady stream of outright lies and "science-backed" deception on numerous local issues. Here in BC, the science is for sale that proves that black is white and is bought by the highest institutional bidder to justify their various projects. All people know around here about your "Batholiths" project, is that the last incarnation of it was shut down because it would have severely damaged our pristine marine environment. Now it's been resurrected again, and our community was entirely left out of the consultation loop. For these reasons, we are angry, we are not convinced that your project is completely environmentally benign and we have legitimate concerns that are not being addressed.

We've been studying the Sandhill cranes which nest in this area over the past three years, and our surveys indicate that their habitat requirements are for utterly intact, silent, solitary wilderness. Our surveys are demonstrating this, -we have not found a single invasive species in any of our thousands of vegetation plots around their nests. Sandhill cranes are very easily disturbed, -even by kayak and on foot. Of course it is bad that the odd airplane comes in and out of the Denny Island aerodrome, but that, in my opinion does not justify a 1000 kg detonation. The CCRD, Shearwater Resort and Heiltsuk Nation did not inform our community about the blast and there has been no information or discussion about until it was recently, and with difficulty, discovered.

Currently there are numerous schemes to conduct research to determine the scale of oil and gas reserves in this area. Our governments are working closely with huge American corporations in massive schemes to build giant pipelines and an associated super-tanker traffic to deliver Alberta Tar Sands oil and LNG to this wild coast. Nobody on this coast wants this planet-destroying development and we are actively fighting it.

Aside from the immediate effects of your blast, for which apparently you have no monitoring component, there are concerns that your data may also be helpful to those oil and gas interests.

For all these reasons, I would ask you politely, to at least delete the Denny Island hole from your plans.

Sincerely,  Ingmar Lee

Ingmar Lee
Box 60
Denny Island, BC

2009/7/11 John Hole <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Mr. Lee,
I find it very difficult to answer your email given your tone.  In addition, several of your assertions are just plain false.  
However, I will attempt to continue to communicate with you, as this has always been our honest goal.  
a) Apparently, the people we have talked to (CCRD, Shearwater Resort, and Heiltsuk Nation) have not, as we requested, helped us reach everyone in your community.  For that I am very sorry.  
Do these organizations not well represent your community?  Is there an alternate organization that we should talk to?   We have asked, and are not aware of such.  
b) Seismic shot damage does not scale with size, as shot-hole design (burial under rock) takes size into account.  I have personally been at thousands of seismic shots, from shotgun-size to 4000 kg.  I stand literally on top of the shotgun-sized shots and 100-200 m away from the large shots, quite safely.  I have shot 50 kg within 30 m of a house with no damage.  Our consultant (former head of blasting safety for the province) said for a very similar 1000 kg shot "no reasonable likelihood of any building damage from shaking" at 1 km distance from houses.  
It is true that there is the potential for groundwater effects in certain types of groundwater geologic systems, and these effects are often regulated by law.  However, such systems do not exist in the geology of your area.  
Livestock miscarriage?!?  I guess this might occur with extremely poor safety practices.  More likely a farmer submitting false damage claims.  Such rhetoric is not constructive.  
c) The Batholiths program has never had any connection to the petroleum industry.  
In fact, oil can never be found in the types of rocks found under the islands and channels, the location of the project.   
Your statements about whales and seismic are inconsistent with science -- and irrelevant to the case at hand.  
A "batholith" is a large (km's) chunk of granitic rock that cooled from a liquid magma/lava deep beneath a volcano.  The Coast Mountains are made of many batholiths formed tens of millions of years ago and later uplifted to the current mountains.  Our project is called Batholiths because we are studying the processes that form batholiths in general and the Coast Mountains in particular.  Pure research , university  research, jointly funded by the national science foundations of Canada and the USA.  
In contrast, petroleum is found in sediment and sedimentary rock - consisting of sand, clay, lime and dead organisms (the future petroleum) deposited on the seafloor and later buried.  
d) Regarding our research that we will not harm fish and fish habitats, I refer you to the attached guidelines from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (pdf file attached below).  The guidelines are based on science.  We are following the most conservative guidelines within the document - no silt in the water.  Our permit application has been independently assessed by site investigations, and approved by local experts at the DFO and the BC Ministry of the Environment to meet their highest standards.  The permit process was very public under law.  
We have no reason to be secretive.  Hence my attempt to respond despite the defamatory nature of your emails.  
I am sorry that our previous efforts did not reach you.  I appreciate your attempts to contact us, but how can we communicate civilly and factually?  


On Jul 11, 2009, at 1:13 AM, Ingmar wrote:

Mr Hole, contrary to your assurances of extensive community consultation, not a single person of 80-odd residents here on Denny Island, other than the tug operator who delivered your drills has ever heard of your project. So much for your having "visited the area multiple times, distributing flyers and answering inquiries." My family and I live within a half mile of your Denny Island site and I am outraged that you would suggest that a massive detonation involving 375 kg of dynamite in the middle of the night would not be damaging in any way to our environment, or, without any forewarning would not shock us out of our beds? As I said in my previous email, I have worked seismic all over Alberta in the past and know that drilling and shooting even small charges like 2 1/2 lbs at 100 ft damages the water table and can cause livestock to miscarry. What we do know is that the last "Batholiths" seismic proposal that came through here in 2007 was initiated for offshore Oil and Gas development, -something for which there is unanimous opposition here, and which was shut down because we don't want our whales screaming onto the beach with bleeding eardrums. Seems that this latest incarnation of the Batholiths program anticipated widespread opposition to the project, hence all the secrecy. Please send me your research which demonstrates no harm whatsoever to wildlife, or to the salmon eggs in nearby streams. I'd also be very interested to know what monitoring program you've got in place to check for environmental damage after the fact.

Thanks for responding

Ingmar Lee

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2009/7/9 John Hole <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Mr. Lee,
George Spence and I are currently on the road, so I apologize in advance for a limited response - we have very limited email over the next day or two.  
This project has been in the permitting and community outreach stages for almost two years.  We have communicated personally and through FrontCounter BC with both the Heiltsuk Nation and the Central Coast Regional District, to our knowledge the organizations relevant to your community.  Both groups expressed no concerns about our work.  The permit has been issued by FrontCounter BC, in consultation with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the BC Ministry of the Environment, the BC Min. of Forestry, and several other government agencies, and with First Nations and community organizations.  We modified our plans to accommodate environmental and archeological concerns identified by these groups, and all of them expressed satisfaction with our current plan.  The plan includes First Nation assistance.  
We have been the opposite of secretive.  We have visited the area multiple times, distributing flyers and answering inquiries.  We apologize if we missed some individuals.  
We received an email from Ian McAllister on Wednesday, and I responded in detail to his inquiries about our plans.  
Our project is neither violent nor destructive.  Seismic shots are designed to cause no damage to the landscape beyond that of drilling a hole similar to a water well.  We are not "blasting", which is defined as breaking/damaging the earth.  The shaking is noticeable for 1-2 km distance, and passes in a fraction of a second - it is much less intrusive than a lightning strike and smaller than many of the earthquakes that occur naturally in the region.  The noise level is similar to a shotgun, airplane, or distant lightning, noises frequently heard in this area.  Wildlife is not harmed in any way by such work, as evidenced by extensive work in multiple environments.  
I apologize for being so blunt, but landing a plane at that airstrip, or flying low overhead, causes greater disturbance to the wildlife.  
We do not have a "blast route" on Denny Island:  we have a single shot planned there, at a previously blasted and bulldozed site. The shot is scheduled to be fired in the very-early morning hours of July 17.  It might be delayed a day, or two at most, if our other field logistics require.  
We would be happy to answer further inquiries, and would fully cooperate with any environmental monitoring that you might arrange.  
John Hole

On Jul 9, 2009, at 10:49 PM, Ingmar wrote:

Dear Professors Hole and Spence,

Recently two large drills were unloaded from a barge here in Shearwater BC, which then proceeded up to our local aerodrome where they drilled a large hole. I understand that you are amongst the chief proponents of what appears to be a giant seismic blast up here on Denny Island to be conducted at some secret time and date. As a resident here on Denny Island conducting research on our local Sandhill cranes, I am extremely concerned about your blast for numerous reasons, several of which I have outlined below.

~ there are at least 5 Sandhill crane nests within 2 kms of the blast site and the Denny Island aerodrome is frequented by cranes raising chicks, right at this moment. Our community feedback reports moreSandhill crane/chick sightings at the Denny Island aerodrome than at any other local location.

~ the 'Great Bear Rainforest' is purported to be a special wilderness region where violent, destructive projects are expected to be 'managed' according to "Eco-System Based Management" principles, which would include extensive community discussion

~ you appear to have ignored required university protocols for conducting research in FN territory. (Even our little crane project observes the UVic protocols, we asked for and received permissions from the Heiltsuk Nation, we demonstrated tangible benefits to the local community and we hire local FN field assistants and pay them a substantial salary.)

~ there hasn't been any whiff of community consultation about this, nobody knows about it, not even the Chair of our Chamber of Commerce, (our only local democratic body.)  It has been far too difficult to find out what was going on at all.

~all along your proposed "Batholiths" blast route, wildlife are in the most sensitive stages of rearing their young. Sandhill cranes while raising chicks are particularly fragile and vulnerable to any intrusion. 

I cannot imagine a worse possible timing or location for a project of this sort. I have worked on seismic projects in Alberta, and know that a 2 1/2 lb. stick of Geogel at 100 ft produces a distinct thump that can be felt several kms away. I understand that your blast will be much more enormous.

I am particularly concerned and bothered by the outright lack of community discussion.

What's with all the secrecy?? Is it your intention just to surprise us?

Please send me details about your "Batholiths" project including exactly when the blast is scheduled to take place.

Thanks,  Ingmar Lee

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cheers,  Ingmar


J. A. Hole, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 1-540-231-3858, Fax ...-3386
Dept. of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, 
  4044 Derring Hall (MC 0420), Blacksburg VA, 24061