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Simpcw First Nation Fisheries and Wildlife Coordinator Tina Donald has been working with Kinder Morgan Canada’s Emergency Management field team on development of KMC’s Geographic Response Plans (GRP) in the North Thompson and Upper Fraser regions. We recently caught up with Tina to learn more about her job and about Simpcw priorities for environmental protection during the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and operations of the expanded pipeline.

What does your work for Simpcw First Nation involve?

It’s anything to do with fish or wildlife within our traditional territory. We are a division of the Secwepemc Nation. Depending on the issue, I take care of it myself or pass it along to a specialist such as a fisheries or wildlife biologist. I also do emergency management for the band. I make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, that I’m aware of everything that’s going on within the territory, of who is where and how things are being looked after.

Why is this work so important to your First Nation?

A lot of our members depend on the fishing resource and the wildlife out there as a food source. This year we got involved in managing what people were taking from those resources. Our area is known to have lots of game so people are coming in from all over, hunting wildlife, so we are trying to keep track of what we harvest and what everybody else harvests.

We do self-imposed closures — we have a number of areas where we don’t allow any fishing because the fish numbers are so low. If need be we can work together with the Ministry of Environment to close down an area if it’s overhunted or we will work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to shut down part of the river.

How will Simpcw be involved in monitoring pipeline construction activity during the Trans Mountain Expansion Project? Would you be on-site during construction or reviewing construction plans, for example?

As a Simpcw First Nation Council member, I’ve always said the bottom line is protecting the environment, those who live in it, on it and use it. In order to do that, I need to be involved in the pipeline construction and determine that it’s being done in a safe way — not only for the environment but for those working on the Project as well.

As a supervisor, I’m not required to do specific monitoring myself. But I have taken the training so I know what information the people I’m working with need to collect. I have the monitoring background so I know what’s going on, what’s supposed to be collected and when it’s supposed to be collected.

Trans Mountain recently carried out a review of the route in order to develop Geographic Response Plans for responding to a potential emergency situation along the route. How were you involved in this review?

I spent a couple of days with Trans Mountain’s team as they were coming down through Mount Robson Park, which is at the top of our territory, and again when they got to Clearwater and went all the way down to the bottom of our territory.

One place that’s near and dear to me is Finn Creek. They held off that portion of their work until I joined up with them.

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I provided them our cultural information because we want to make sure our cultural sites are being protected. I shared any extra knowledge we had about fishing or animals or whatever resources we had in the area. Once all of their information is compiled, they will share the final plan with me.

If something were to happen somewhere along the right-of-way, for example, at Blue River, I would know the point where the emergency response team would go into the river and set up its emergency response equipment.

Part of the planning work was getting to know all the individuals doing the GRPs because they are the ones who would be on-site if anything were to happen. For me, that includes getting to know those people face-to-face, so when I show up on-site they know who I am and what my role is.

What was it like to work with them?

When I first went out to the site at Robson Valley, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be heard. But the Kinder Morgan crew and the SWAT Consulting (inland water spill response) crew that were out there were very respectful. They took in all the information I had to offer, they listened to the stories I told about the area. They were great to me.

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The Plans includes more than 300 GRP control points in the North Thompson region. Are all of those points in Simpcw territory?

A good majority of them are. Our territory encompasses one third of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. That’s why we’re deeply involved in what’s going on. When we have concerns, we are listened to and we know who we need to contact.

Did Simpcw already have a geographic response plan for sensitive and important locations?

Kinder Morgan Canada is the first to develop GRPs with us. It’s totally new.

How does it help you in your work?

We are on the ground doing these GRPs to make sure we’re covering off our end of the territory and protecting the water, the land, the air, everything that’s there and everything that uses it. We’re getting involved in that whole process.

The highway, the pipeline and the railway run parallel all the way through our territory. With Geographic Response Plans we would be prepared, along with Kinder Morgan and its consultants if we had to deal with something.

Being prepared to handle anything that could happen and prevent any fluids from travelling down any system any further than necessary is important for us.

What preparations are involved?

We are working with Kinder Morgan to set up cache sites of emergency response equipment. We know the time frame it would take something to reach a location. If something happens, say, between Blue River and Clearwater, we wouldn’t have to wait for somebody to come out of Kamloops with stuff. We would have a trailer sitting in Clearwater or Blue River that could be on-site in probably less than an hour. With all of the GRPs that are planned they would know exactly what to bring to the site and how many people it would take to operate all of that equipment.

We need to continue having those face-to-face meetings so that we get to know each other and we’re comfortable.