A luxury lodge chef plans to swim 610 kilometres —and spend almost a month in frigid river water — to raise awareness about what she calls potentially harmful industrial projects along a river in Northern B.C.

On Tuesday, Ali Howard, 33, will enter the Skeena River at its source on the Spatsizi Plateau wearing a drysuit, gloves, booties, a helmet and a personal flotation device.

For the next 28 days, the former university water polo player will float and swim, accompanied by two kayaks and two rafts, through rapids and past whirlpools to the ocean down B.C.’s second longest river.

“I’m excited and nervous,” said Howard yesterday. “I’m concerned about what these industrial projects could mean for the river. These fears outweigh my own.”

The Spirit of the Skeena Swim aims to raise awareness about coalbed methane exploration in the Spatsizi Plateau as well as a possible pipeline from the Albertan tarsands to the coast through the southern portion of the watershed.

In December, the provincial government implemented a two-year moratorium on coalbed methane exploration in the area.

She called coalbed methane “insidious” and said it has the potential to ruin one of the longest un-dammed rivers in the world.

The eight-person crew accompanying Howard needs to be self-sufficient for the first portion of the swim as they will not hit a town until day 12.

Once she enters inhabited areas, the group will host community celebrations to “get people talking about the river’s future.”

“We want to capture locals’ imaginations and galvanize the community.”

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