A MEMBER of a local environmental group hopes the new federal Liberal government pays attention to a letter it sent calling for the rejection of a planned LNG export plant on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.
“I am feeling very optimistic about that,” says Christie Brown of Northwest Watch of the switch in Ottawa from the previous Conservative government. “It’s exciting to have a new party in power.”
The letter, written by Tsimshian hereditary chief Donald Wesley and signed by 70 people and groups including First Nations leaders, scientists and businesses, was sent in tandem with another one from United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union-Unifor saying a LNG plant on Lelu Island wanted by Pacific NorthWest LNG would be too harmful to young Skeena River salmon.
“The federal government has taken steps to reconcile with First Nations over the years,” Brown added. “And respecting the tribal-inherited properties is a huge part of reconciliation.”
The Tsimshian from Lax Kw’alaams have laid claim to the island and Wesley has been leading an occupation of the land and water there.
Over the past months, Brown has been visiting the island regularly and helping build a cultural camp there.
The sticking point for the project, which is one of 20 proposed for the BC coast, has been the alleged danger it represents to Skeena River salmon, 88 per cent of which seek refuge during their smolt stage in the fragile and rare eel grass habitat just off the island, according to study findings summarized in the letter.
The 365-day federal review was stalled at day 262 on June 2, as the Canadian Environmetnal Assessment Agency wanted more information about the effect that putting in a long pier over the eel grass and into open water would have in terms of erosion and depositions, which was a measure that Pacific NorthWest LNG said would protect the eel grass underneath.
The federal environmental agency says it is still waiting to hear back from the company with more information. After the 365 day period recommences, and wraps up after a minimum of 103 more days, then there would be another period of public consultation based on a draft version of the decision, said a statement from the federal environment ministry.
Brown said she has seen first hand some of the damage already happening to the eel grass from the drilling done by Pacific NorthWest LNG as part of this process.
“I have been out on Flora Bank and I have spent a lot of time on the water around Lelu Island, and I have seen eel grass floating around which has been uprooted from those drills,” she said.
Signatories to the Wesley letter include the “elected Lax Kw’alaams Band Council, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and leaders from Gitxsan, Gitanyow, Wet’suwe’ten, Tsimshian, Fort Nelson and Salteau First Nations, as well as Dr. David Suzuki, Dr. Wade Davis, Dr. Alexandra Morton, and Dr. Barb Faggetter,” states the release from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.
“From every corner of the province, we are all in agreement that Lelu Island and Flora Banks is the worst possible spot on the north coast to site an LNG facility,” said Greg Horne of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition in the same release.
The Wesley letter can be read at http://media.wix.com/ugd/6d9c86_5e67cf40765d428eb985c64dc76a024d.pdf and the one from Unifor at http://media.wix.com/ugd/6d9c86_96c6044768bd41c281dbe5e96941d95b.pdf.