If you woke tomorrow to the sound of drilling, blasting, earth removal and trucks as the creation of a subsea pipeline begins on the shores of our mainland community, how would you respond?
It could happen in the not too distant future and I hope people will find their voices in a collective no before such a project, with an active lifespan of 25 years, materializes.
I am writing about the Kwispaa LNG project also known as the Steelhead LNG project.
In 2014 a deal was struck between Steelhead and Huu-ay-aht Nation to co-manage the creation of a liquefied natural gas port along the shores of Bamfield in an area currently used as a logsort for Western Forest Products. Bamfield is a quaint, small fishing, tourist village at the start or end of the West Coast Trail on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Since that time, the project has been given the traditional name Kwispaa, meaning “on the other side”.
Natural gas is fracked in the northern interior, but investors believe they need to export this global warming fossil fuel for economic development. On October 22, the Alberni Valley News reported: “The natural gas pipeline would be 1,000 kilometres long and would parallel existing multi-utility corridors starting from Chetwynd BC and branch off at Williams Lake into a new greenfield right-of-way through the Coastal Mountain Range to Powell River. It would transit across the Salish Sea via a 31-kilometre subsea crossing to the shores of Comox before traversing Vancouver Island via land out to the Kwispaa site at Sarita Bay.”
Steelhead has already had a presence in our area. For at least a year, the Nehmotl newspaper has reported meetings between Steelhead and Tla’amin Nation’s legislature. On November 15 a letter of introduction regarding the Kwispaa project was sent from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to qathet Regional District.How long before Steelhead or the CEAA knocks on the door of Powell River city hall?
I woke up to the wolf that wore sheep’s clothing that changed the nature of Toba Inlet. When Plutonic Power first came to town, it bought goodwill by supporting charitable endeavours; we let that wolf in. How many of us have seen the effect a mega run-of-river project has upon the life of a valley? How many of us were distraught by the deactivation of access to the backcountry, accessibility promised on paper to be a lasting legacy? How many of us realize the crippling steps that private run-of-river projects have walked over BC Hydro?
We are about to be courted again and I want us to say no. Turn instead to nature, turn to the forest, mountains, shoreline and Salish Sea. Turn to our children and our children’s children.
LNG and the extraction of fossil fuel is a discussion for the public and a decision to be made by the public. This is not a private backroom deal to make the wealthy wealthier. We need to understand the extent of the project with clear eyes as we remember and understand the devastation we would commit ourselves and our natural world to in the name of greed.
Janet Southcott is a resident of Powell River.