TransCanada is abandoning plans to build a workers’ camp at a proposed site near the shores of Tchesinkut Lake after public feedback revealed overwhelming opposition, the Lakes District News has learned.
The company “will not be using the currently proposed site” for the work camp, said Kiel Giddens, regional manager of public affairs for the Coastal GasLink Pipeline (CGL) in a letter dated May 22 to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN).
This follows the release of an RDBN report indicating an “overwhelming amount of concern” among members of the public about the site. The RDBN and TransCanada gathered feedback from the public about the proposed work camp during an open house in Burns Lake at the beginning of May.
The report stated that 90 percent of the 33 comment sheets gathered by the RDBN were against the proposed location.
Of the remaining comment sheets, only one expressed support for the camp, while two others “did not specify a concern and noted opportunities for partnership to improve local infrastructure,” according to the RDBN.
In his letter, Giddens said the RDBN report “matches Coastal GasLink’s internal review,” and that “new proposed locations will consider the public feedback” gathered at the open house.
Water pollution, drainage top concern
The top concern, expressed by about 25 commenters, was water pollution and drainage, according to the RDBN report.
This was followed by qualms about an expected uptick in traffic on Highway 35, which garnered about a dozen comments. About a dozen people were troubled by the company’s plans for waste management.
Fewer respondents wrote about concerns including safety and crime, proximity to residential areas, noise and “water quantity.” Other concerns included impacts on recreational areas, community services and wildlife concerns.
“It is noted that the majority of responses indicated that they are in favour of the pipeline, but not in favour of the location of the work camp,” the report states. Many people in attendance at the open house said they would support a camp located apart from Tchesinkut Lake.
Many of the concerned citizens suggested that areas closer to the proposed pipeline’s thoroughfare would be better suited for the camp, notably the 700 Forest Service Road and Six Mile Pit Forest Service Road.
Plans ‘lack detail’: RDBN
“It is clear that residents of the Tchesinkut Lake area are highly protective of their quality of life,” the RDBN reports states.
It goes on to recommend that RDBN directors tell TransCanada to look for an alternative site — a moot point following TransCanada’s decision to abandon Tchesinkut Lake — with “reduced potential for negative environmental, social and safety impacts on the local community.”
Staff said they “shared the concerns raised by residents” but were unable to comment specifically on those issues due to “the current lack of detailed information regarding the proposed development and its operation.”
TransCanada has refused to apply for required permits for its proposed work camp until after contractors have been hired to build and operate the facility, according to RDBN planning officials. This prompted the RDBN to launch a public consultation process ahead of the company’s eventual application.
In the report, RDBN staff said they would advise against approving an application if the company didn’t address land use concerns.
“[S]taff will work with TransCanada in an attempt to obtain the information necessary to fully evaluate the land use impacts associated with the application,” the report states. “Should the impacts not be satisfactorily addressed it should be expected that staff will recommend that the application not be approved.”
Company seeking “mutually acceptable” site
TransCanada issued a statement on May 25 saying the company has been in detailed discussions with the RDBN and is now seeking a “mutually acceptable” site.
“Once we had firm information from our contractors on camp needs, size and required general location, just obtained early this year, we started detailed discussions with the RDBN,” said company spokesperson Terry Cunha in a statement.
“They requested we support them in an open house and based upon the feedback from the open house, we have re-evaluated the site selection and are now investigating other sites,” he said. “We will continue to work with the RBDN and local municipalities to find a site that is mutually acceptable.”
He added that the pipeline is “widely supported by many Indigenous and local communities as the project will provide economic benefits including jobs, and contracting opportunities in northern BC.”
Several camps planned
The work camp is expected to house up to 600 workers during the peak period of construction on the Coastal GasLink Pipeline (CGL) project, which would transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a planned facility in Kitimat.
It would be one of several facilities for pipeline workers along the proposed pipeline’s thoroughfare, which would span about 670 km.
Greg Cano, the director of planning and execution for the CGL project, told the Lakes District News in May that other locations were considered for a work camp in the Burns Lake area, including an area behind the Lakeview Mall, but that “none were large enough to accommodate the camp.”
The future of the pipeline itself remains in question. The fate of the project hinges on a decision by the LNG Canada consortium — which includes Shell Canada, Korea Gas, Mitsubishi and PetroChina — about whether or not to invest in an LNG facility in Kitimat. That decision is expected later this year.