Huu-ay-aht First Nations citizens made history last year by becoming the first Nation in British Columbia to approve the co-managed development of a liquefied natural gas facility on their traditional territory.
On Monday, members from both Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Steelhead LNG were in Port Alberni council chambers to provide more information about the Kwispaa LNG project proposed for Sarita Bay near Bamfield.
Carol Greaves, the community relations lead at Steelhead LNG, explained that the facility will export approximately 24 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year, which will be largely transported overseas to countries such as China and India, to offset coal production. The feed gas for the facility will be Canadian natural gas from northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta.
A pipeline, expected to span 1,000 km, will transport this gas to the Kwispaa LNG facility. Steelhead plans to use about 500 km of existing right-of-ways for this pipeline. The pipeline was originally supposed to travel across the Island from a facility based in Bamberton on the Saanich Inlet. That idea was shelved late last year.
“We are working hard to create a project that delivers value to the community,” said Greaves on Monday.
The facility will not be a land-based facility, but an at-shore facility, meaning it will be moored to jetties in the water to reduce the environmental impact.
Greaves added that Steelhead hopes to spend the rest of this year working on the final front end engineering and design work, with the first cargo delivered in 2024. An environmental assessment still needs to be completed.
“We’re at the very early stages of this project,” said Greaves.
The proposed natural gas liquefaction and export facility was given the go-ahead after a community referendum resulted in a 70 percent vote in favour in March 2017. The positive vote meant that Steelhead LNG, a Canadian company based out of Vancouver, would develop the LNG project through a co-management relationship with the Huu-ay-aht.
For members of Huu-ay-aht, the co-managed project is a step towards reconciliation.
Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. explained that the Huu-ay-aht have taken great strides in economic development since signing a treaty to become self-governing in 2011. “We’re attempting to rebuild our nation,” said Dennis. “We’re attempting to rebuild our status that we once had. We’re attempting to reconcile…to restore the heart of our people.”
He explained that Huu-ay-aht First Nations are in an ideal co-management position, with a facility that is entirely within their territory, and a Project Oversight Board that will consist of three members of Huu-ay-aht and three members of Steelhead LNG.
“We have the support of our people, we have the support of our hereditary chiefs and we have the support of our council for this project,” said Dennis.
Jeff Cook, a Huu-ay-aht First Nation ha’wiih (hereditary chief), added that the project will create meaningful employment, not only for the Nation, but for local communities. He summarized that there will be up to 2,000 construction jobs available during the construction of the facility, as well as up to 400 direct long-term jobs during its operation.
“There’s a huge impact if we carry this forward,” he said.
The purpose of the delegation on Monday was simply to provide information about Kwispaa LNG, so council did not make any formal motion of support for the project.