Two local First Nations say they are tentatively onboard with conclusions of a federal environmental review of the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal planned for Lelu Island which concluded that salmon would not be affected by the footprint of the $11-billion liquefaction facility at the mouth of the Skeena River.
“We have gone to great lengths to address environmental concerns and have ensured that an extraordinary amount of scientific work has taken place,” said Kitsumkalum chief Don Roberts in a press release following last week’s release of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) review.
“As we review CEAA’s findings and have the assurance that the project will not impact the Skeena fishery, it enables us to consider social and economic benefits for our members, like training for our younger generation,” said Roberts.
Kitselas chief councillor Joe Bevan also endorsed the finds of the federal agency.
“All of our leaders and people have been weighing the benefits against the potential impacts through multiple public meetings. We are encouraged that the proponent has undertaken significant additional work to address concerns and that the independent scientists at CEAA have validated this work.”
Their comments were contained within a release from the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority made up of five Tsimshian first nations and formed to review the Pacific NorthWest LNG project.
The five are among seven Tsimshian first nations having traditional claims to the area for fish and other marine harvesting around Lelu Island.
One of the nations that is part of this authority, the Gitga’at First Nation, did not participate in the endorsement of the federal environmental review.
The Kitselas have already signed an impact management benefits agreement for the project and Kitsumkalum is also in negotiations.
The federal review was delayed while Pacific NorthWest LNG provided the government with more detailed information about how the development, including a kilometre long trellis into Chatham Sound, would affect the ocean floor where a sensitive ecosystem provides rearing grounds for juvenile salmon.
Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned company wanting to build the facility changed its design to elongate the pier going out into the bay to try to avoid this area.
The review said there would be significant impacts on the porpoise population in the area, as well as a concerning increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Local conservation groups were unanimous in disagreeing with the claim that salmon would not be affected, basing their statements off other scientific studies that have been done in the area.
The project is being opposed by the elected and hereditary leadership of another Tsimshian first nation, the Lax Kw’alaams, which have a traditional claim to Lelu Island itself and to the surrounding marine waters.
With the CEAA review now released, a 30-day public comment period of the review is now underway. That ends March 11.