Local tribes and environmentalists sounded the alarm after Canada approved the Trans Mountain pipeline.
They're worried about the impact the increased tanker traffic could have to the waters shared by Washington and British Columbia.
“If there is an oil spill, and I guarantee there will be an oil spill, it's a matter of time, this could take generations to heal from that,” said Tulalip tribe chairman Mel Sheldon.
More than half of the Tulalip fishing fleet head up to Canada's Point Roberts and the San Juan Islands to fish. It's an area that could see a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic with the approved expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“When someone wants to do something to your neighborhood, and they don't come and ask you, instead just move right in with their project, that has a huge negative effect on your neighborhood. You get concerned, you get angry, you get dismayed,” Sheldon said.
Protests broke out Tuesday night after Canadian leaders announced their decision to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline at a press conference.
The $6.8 billion pipeline project will take almost 900,000 barrels of oil from Edmonton, Alberta, to Burnaby, British Columbia.
The 120 tankers that travel through the Salish Sea per year would jump to more than 800.
Port Commissioner and environmentalist Fred Felleman believes it's the biggest threat to Puget Sound.
"All that shoreline gives a lot of places for oil to coat. So it's not like it'll all go out to sea. It will create a bath ring that we'll never not see,” said Felleman.
Even if no oil spills, the threat to the southern resident killer whales lies below the surface. The underwater noise from the propellers alone could impact their ability to hunt salmon and communicate.
“Some of the most important feeding grounds for southern residents is right along the tanker route,” said Misty MacDuffee of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Other Canadian leaders still need to sign off on the project. Environmentalists promise to take the fight to court.
Kinder Morgan hopes to start building the pipeline in September of 2017.
Copyright 2016 KING