Western Canada Marine Response Corp. launched the first of 40 vessels for the Trans Mountain expansion project on June 12 in Prince Rupert. (WCMRC photo)

B.C. spill response plans in limbo after Trans Mountain decision

Nearly $150 million in new bases, personnel and ships are on hold

Plans to build six new spill response bases along B.C.’s coast are up in the air after last week’s court decision to halt the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The six locations were part of a $150-million funding injection for marine safety that also included about 120 new hires and 43 new vessels.

The money was to be collected by Western Canada Marine Response Corp. from an impending toll on the expanded pipeline.

The corporation is an industry-funded organization tasked with responding to and cleaning up spills along B.C.’s coast.

READ MORE: WCMRC grows its fleet and spill response on the North Coast

But all of those plans are on hold now, according to its communications director Michael Lowry.

“We started working with Trans Mountain about five years ago on proposed enhancements for spill response on the coast,” said Lowry.

“So these enhancements have always been tied to the pipeline” by the National Energy Board.

Last Thursday, the Federal Court of Appeal shot down Ottawa’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on the grounds of environmental risk and Indigenous consultation.

The decision found that the National Energy Board “unjustifiably defined the scope of the project under review not to include project-related tanker traffic.”

This allowed the board to ignore any harm increased tanker traffic could cause to Southern resident killer whales along the B.C. coast.

The court’s ruling means that the National Energy Board will have to redo its review of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the feds will have to reengage with Indigenous groups.

Its decision effectively put the $150 million in spill response improvements on hold.

READ MORE: B.C. ‘very disappointed’ by court decision to not hear Trans Mountain appeal

The proposed spill response enhancements, Lowery said, were meant to reduce response time from six hours to two hours for Vancouver Harbour and down from 18-72 hours to six hours for the rest of the coast.

“But based on the ruling last week, there’s some uncertainty on what the next steps are,” said Lowry.

“We’ve put a pause on the work on our bases.”

The six bases would have been built in Vancouver Harbour, near Annacis Island in the Fraser River, in Nanaimo, Port Alberni, the Saanich Peninsula and Beecher Bay near Sooke.

The problem, Lowry said, is that several 25-year leases have already been signed.

“We’ve got leases in place with Port Metro Vancouver, the Fraser River, Nanaimo Port Authority and the Port Alberni Port Authority,” said Lowry.

“The next step for us was to proceed to issuing construction tenders. That’s paused right now.”

Lowry said that currently, the corporation won’t try to make any changes to those leases.

Instead, they’ll wait and see what happens with the pipeline expansion.

Some work has already started on the shipbuilding side.

“We have vessels being built in Prince Rupert, we have some being built down in Washington and we have some being built overseas,” he said.

“We can’t stop that work.”

READ MORE: Trans Mountain’s first oil spill response ship ready

Some of the new 120 planned employees have already been hired, Lowry said, but noted that they’ll keep their jobs because of the corporations phased-in hiring process.

“We’re bringing employees on based on the arrival of vessels so that we always have crew to man the new vessels,” he said.

“It’s certainly a bit of a balancing act.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Victoria woman accesses healing Burn Fund resources 45 years after injury

Stasi Manser was burned when she was five years old and now works as an adult burn survivor advocate

Fate of accused in Saanich couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

PRIDE on the Barge caps off last Friday of Pride Month

Starting at 5 p.m. with music from Rocksteady

Local grocery store steps up to help resident after Saanich jams her stand

Pepper’s Foods will start selling jams previously sold through roadside stand

Brentwood Bay fruit stand plundered on first day of season

Leeanne and Jack Guthrie dismayed to find money and fruit stolen from roadside stand

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

POLL: Do you think the penalty should be increased for tossing a burning cigarette from a vehicle?

With grasslands and forests around Vancouver Island and across B.C. reaching tinder… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Most Read