Lax Kw’alaams First Nation pressures for change to LNG proposal with title claim to project site
The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation has announced it plans to claim title to Lelu Island and Flora Bank near Prince Rupert, site of the $11-billion Pacific Northwest LNG proposal, to pressure for changes to the project and could put it at risk.
Once a title claim is establish, the Lax Kw’alaams maintain that government would be obligated to seek the First Nation’s consent for development, including the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal.
“We are open to development, including PNW’s project,” Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Gary Reece said in a news release, “but not the way the project is currently situated.”
The project has received provincial environmental approval and is awaiting federal approval, but in the news release, Reece said the federal government’s delegate, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, has repeatedly ignored the First Nation’s concerns over placement of the project.
And he said the Lax Kw’alaams have deep concerns with the apathy and indifference shown by government and the port authority.
Flora bank, at the mouth of the Skeena River, is considered critical rearing habitat for juvenile salmon that research has shown is used by all salmon stocks within the Skeena system.
The PNW proposal includes a 1.6-kilometre suspension bridge that extends from Lelu Island to the marine terminal’s shipping berths, which extends across Flora Bank, which the First Nation believes puts critical salmon habitat at risk.
The Lax Kw’alaams, earlier this year, voted to reject a $1.15 billion package with the Pacific Northwest LNG project, which is being spearheaded by Malaysian state-owned energy giant Petronas, over the environmental concerns.
Reece said the Lax Kw’alaams still have deep concerns about the the environmental impacts and “the project needs to change before it is embraced by the Lax Kw’alaams members.”
Earlier this month, Pacific Northwest LNG started test drilling off of Lelu Island for engineering work to evaluate soils and the company said the work is taking place away from Flora Bank.
Lax Kw’alaams community members, however, expressed fears that the work would involve removing eel grass from the sensitive area, though PNW said it did not do so.
At the end of August, Lax Kw’alaams members set up a camp on Lelu Island to prevent its use as an LNG terminal.
“Our traditional law, backed by our scientific reports, has made it clear that Flora Bank cannot be touched by PNW or any other company that proposes development,” Reece said, adding that the title claim has support of the 3,700-member Lax Kw’alaams community.
The First Nation has called a community meeting Sept. 30 to answer questions about the PNW project and title claim.