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Water is life for everything
Editorial Comment - Deh Cho Drum

As news broke last week of a shutdown to the Norman Wells pipeline, Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Jerry Antoine told the Deh Cho Drum protecting the water is the band's top priority.

With the pipeline upriver from Fort Simpson, any potential damage could have serious effects on residents of the village.

The band is pushing for year-round water quality monitoring by Enbridge, on top of any measures that may come out of the shutdown.

The band's concern is for both the water and the land. The Mackenzie River is the longest river system in Canada. It flows through vast wilderness and gives life to all manner of creatures.

Framed by continuing protests at Standing Rock in the U.S., Antoine's words ring very true.

Enbridge announced the Norman Wells pipeline is being shut down, thanks to "ground instability."

After a brief re-activation of the pipeline to remove the oil already inside, the shutdown will proceed.

No one is quite sure yet how long that shutdown will be in place or when oil will start flowing again. That forces Imperial Oil to cut production to minimal levels, and it also requires the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to be on guard with a back-up energy source ready in Norman Wells, since the town's power is generated by oil production.

What all this means for oil and energy production in Norman Wells is unclear.

What it means for the Deh Cho is that erosion along the banks of the Mackenzie River is having serious economic impacts.

But just as water is the lifeblood of this region, so is erosion a fact of life for communities built next to rivers.

It is common knowledge, for instance, that erosion around the island in Fort Simpson is a cause of some concern.

Water erodes earth and the impact of human development often speeds that process along.

Pipelines, as evidenced by the current situation, are not immune to the effects of that either.

Luckily, the region has numerous water stewards who are dedicated to protecting the resource and mitigating any impacts to it.

This past summer, as land users got out on the river, Liidlii Kue First Nation was getting reports of erosion close to the area that has shut down the pipeline.

That led to a meeting between the band and Enbridge to discuss erosion concerns.

It is great to see such open lines of communication between Liidlii Kue First Nation and Enbridge.

From a water management standpoint, that communication means the band is able to provide an extra level of monitoring and information Enbridge may not otherwise receive.

Additionally, the band is approaching this from the standpoint of wanting to ensure the Deh Cho's most precious resource is not contaminated or damaged in any way.

No one knows these lands and waters like the Dene. Liidlii Kue First Nation has requested direct involvement in whatever steps Enbridge takes to re-open its pipeline, and Enbridge needs to listen.

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