Several land use referrals regarding preliminary geotechnical field work related to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project within the boundaries of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) came before the RDBN rural directors committee during its Sept. 12, 2013 meeting.
Staff recommendation, based upon a narrowly defined scope of interest, was that the RDBN rural directors take the position that the RDBN’s interests were unaffected by the content of the land use referrals.
The recommendation, put forward as a motion, was roundly rejected by the rural directors.
Instead, the committee moved to only acknowledge receipt of the documentation. The deadline for comment on the referrals had passed on Aug. 31, 2013, something over which committee members expressed frustration.
“These [land use] referrals are a frustrating process,” Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said. “The process poses as consultation, but is done in such a way as to limit the amount of feedback that is received. The timing is one of the things that prevents people from giving feedback.”
Further to these concerns, the rural directors committee passed a motion to request that further land referrals be brought to the board’s attention with enough time for RDBN staff to make an informed recommendation.
The request would be made to future proponents as well as to Front Counter B.C., which received the land referrals on or about April 8, 2013 but did not deliver the documents to the RDBN until Aug. 1, 2013, despite the Aug. 31 deadline for comment.
Rob Newell, RDBN director area G (Houston rural), and Steve Freeman, RDBN director area E (Francois/Ootsa Lake rural) further added for the record that they would reject any action that would give the appearance of supporting Enbridge.
Newell and Freeman defined their positions based on feedback they have received from their constituents.
“My constituents do not support the pipeline,” Freeman said. “Therefore, I do not support the pipeline.”
The wording of the staff report reflects the standard language found in most, if not all, referrals or requests that staff determines does not affect the RDBN based on well-defined land-use parameters.
The staff report was not intended to reflect the RDBN’s positions on wider issues related to the Enbridge project, nor was it meant to be taken as approval, tacit or otherwise, of the project itself.
“This referral process is very specific,” Miller said. “When we are talking about our interests, that has to do with zoning and bylaws. We are not given the latitude to comment more widely.”
“It is important for the public to understand the limited amount of authority we have as the regional district,” Miller added.
The land referral process, although it had a deadline for RDBN comment of Aug. 31 and did not reach the RDBN until early August, referenced field work that may have already been underway as early as June this year.