First Nations fight Petronas-led LNG project over salmon habitat

Other First Nations, however, remain open to Pacific NorthWest LNG’s plans to build an $11-billion export terminal near Prince Rupert, creating a difficult situation for the project to navigate.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency raised concerns in May about the fate of wild salmon, which are important for First Nations’ food, so protection of the resource would go a long way toward Pacific NorthWest LNG’s bid to secure support from aboriginal groups.

The Wet’suwet’en, Gitanyow, Lake Babine and Gitxsan, who will voice their criticisms at a news conference Wednesday in Vancouver, say they have already made up their minds and no amount of mitigation measures will satisfy them. A member of the Haisla Nation is part of the group opposing Pacific NorthWest LNG, though the Haisla support LNG proposals in Kitimat. Haisla leaders say they maintain an open-minded attitude toward B.C. LNG, in contrast to their deep-rooted fears and anger about the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands bitumen pipeline.

Pacific Northwest LNG mapPacific NorthWest LNG has been trying to lessen the project’s ecological impact in the months after the CEAA wrote a letter in May to outline the risks to salmon habitat in the estuary of the Skeena River, near Lelu Island.

Last month, the Petronas-led group proposed building a suspension bridge that would extend southwest for 1.6 kilometres away from Lelu Island. The suspension bridge, which would connect with a 1.1-kilometre-long jetty, is designed to vastly minimize dredging and avoid damaging the sensitive eel-grass beds for salmon in Flora Bank.

The aboriginal leaders who are opposed to Pacific NorthWest LNG say the jetty leading to the berth for LNG carriers would be 27 metres wide, compared with original plans for 15 metres, and the combined length of 2.7 kilometres is 300 metres longer than previously envisaged. The Wet’suwet’en, Gitanyow, Lake Babine and Gitxsan say the new design poses environmental risks that have not been properly evaluated, and their views have been largely ignored because their land and title is farther away from Lelu Island than other First Nations.

In filings to environmental regulators, Pacific NorthWest LNG argues that it has consulted with aboriginals who are located closest to Lelu Island, notably the Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, Gitxaala, Gitga’at and Lax Kw’alaams. Those First Nations have concerns too, but they have been willing to work with the project’s officials to reduce environmental risks, according to the filings.

“The project heard concerns from local First Nations, communities and stakeholders about the previously proposed dredging activity to accommodate a marine terminal on Agnew Bank. The project’s mitigated design proposes a combined trestle and suspension bridge,” Pacific NorthWest LNG said in a report last month. “The suspension bridge would not require any pilings on Flora Bank, and would connect to a trestle linking Lelu Island to the proposed marine terminal in naturally deep water in Chatham Sound.”

Posted on November 5, 2014, in Oil & Gas and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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