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B.C. group calls for halt of pipeline construction to protect salmon

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Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline at B.C.'s Coquihalla River started last week and Kate Tairyan has been watching it closely, devastated by what she says it's doing to the salmon.

"Everyone loves their salmon right? This is not a political issue. This is not about being for or against the pipeline -- this is about protecting this pristine, beautiful river that sustains life in this part of the world," she told CTV News Tuesday. 

She's one of a growing group of individuals who are calling on the federal government to pause the pipeline construction as it's getting in the way of an early salmon run.

Tairyan, who's also a health sciences senior lecturer at SFU, looks forward to observing the salmon run every year and noticed they came weeks earlier than expected this year.

But the timing couldn't be worse.

While the salmon try to make it upstream to spawn, she says their pathway is now being blocked.

"They already have overcome a lot to get here through the ocean, through the Fraser River that has very high waters, and to put this visible barrier, this obstacle in this way, it just blows my mind," Tairyan said, adding that the river is still recovering from the devastating floods last November.

"This river is wounded like the local people are saying. It needs time to heal and we're doing this? We're wounding it even deeper now," she said.

She and other observers said they have seen the number of fish depleting drastically in the area since construction began.

In an emailed statement to CTV News, Trans Mountain says "All work being undertaken is in compliance with Canada Energy Regulator-approved Environmental Protection Plans, as well as permits issued by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and BC Oil and Gas Commission."

"After the pipes are installed, the stream will be returned to the natural flow path and the site will be reclaimed to its original condition with additional bed and bank flood protection," the statement continues.

Advocates worry it might be too late when this happens -- leading to many dead salmon.

In an emailed statement, the federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy says it's aware of the complaints and that it "urges DFO and the Canada Energy Regulator to fully investigate these complaints and take appropriate action to protect wild salmon and B.C. waterways."

DFO wrote saying it's aware of the criticism made and that "a regulatory inspection team is on-site today to ensure TMX is following the conditions imposed by their Fisheries Act authorization."

"Corrective action will be taken if required," it added.

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