Lake Babine Nation’s biomass project delayed

Funding agencies have denied applications for funding

The construction of Lake Babine Nation’s (LBN) biomass plant, which was expected to be completed by 2017, has been delayed after some of LBN’s requests for funding were denied.

“They [funding agencies] are all waiting for other agencies to commit first,” said project manager Bernard Patrick. “All the funding agencies are looking at our project favourably even though they denied our application.”

“We’re not going to give up hope,” he added. “We’re still going to move forward.”

One of these requests included $150,000 from the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT). Although NDIT wouldn’t comment on the specifics of why they denied LBN’s application earlier this year, the agency said LBN’s application was just one of many that were refused.

“The northwest regional development account was over-committed with the number of requests for available 2017 funds,” said Kim Hayhurst, a spokesperson for NDIT. “The regional advisory committee and board of directors steered the available funds toward projects that met all eligibility requirements, have secured their funding from other partners, and make a difference in the local economy.”

The project’s phase one – which included an engineering feasibility study and engineering design – has already been completed. Patrick said LBN now plans to ask the federal government for funding to start phase two, which will involve the construction of an underground distribution system in Fort Babine.

Phase three would see the construction of an energy centre in Woyenee, as well as a business set-up and operation training.

Lake Babine Nation is betting on the construction of this biomass plant to provide clean energy to its members and create a steady revenue stream. The plant would burn wood chips to sell heat to government organizations, private homes in Woyenne and community buildings in Fort Babine.

Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam said that since negotiations are still taking place, it still hasn’t been determined how much revenue the plant would generate. Once completed, the biomass plant is expected to create five full-time and eight part-time permanent jobs.

The province provided $40,000 to LBN for the project’s feasibility study in 2013, and more than $110,000 for a skills training program in which seven local First Nations people received on-the-job training in 2015. During the 47-week program, participants built 67 firewood storage sheds for Lake Babine Nation in Tachet and Fort Babine, as well as two timber bridges.