A Ucluelet resident discusses environmental risks with a representative from Steelhead LNG at community information session in Ucluelet on Nov. 26. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

‘It’s a terrible idea’: West Coast residents react to massive LNG project proposal in Barkley Sound

Kwispaa LNG formally enters into the environmental assessment phase.

Longtime West Coast resident Jim Whitworth, 74, said attending the Kwispaa LNG open house on Nov. 26 at the Ucluelet Community Centre was like ‘walking into a room full of used car salesmen’.

He said the open house left him frustrated, and reaffirmed all his inklings of concern about the proposed natural gas liquefaction and export facility located in the Barkley Sound he already knew.

“It’s all about money,” Mr. Whitworth said.

“It’s the wrong way to go. What’s wrong with solar? What’s wrong with geothermal? What’s wrong with all of these things? It’s insanity. We’re going 100 per cent the wrong way. We only have one world.”

A partnership between Vancouver-based Steelhead LNG and the Bamfield-area Huu-ay-aht First Nation, Kwispaa is a 25-year, $10 billion project proposed for Sarita Bay at the southwest edge of Barkley Sound. It will process liquified natural gas piped from the mainland, then ship it to overseas markets.

Jason Sam and Johanne Goulet attended the open house as concerned residents of Ucluelet.

“[Steelhead] is a privatized company and they are clearly just using the land and the people,” said Goulet. “We asked what they were going to do with the byproducts and they couldn’t answer those questions.”

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Sam. “It’s going away from renewable energies and investment completely into polluting energy for at least two to three decades. Plus, the amount of tanker traffic that is going to be going through there is crazy.”

Sam, a member of Ahousaht First Nation, went on to say he thought it was strange the LNG company was only partnering with Huu-ay-aht as Sarita Bay is the traditional territory of 14 Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.

During the open house, the Westerly News asked to speak to a member of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, but no representative was in attendance.

Kelly Bedford manages WestCoast Wild Adventures, a floatplane, zipline and kayak ecotour operator, located on Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations traditional territory.

“I paused for a moment when I looked around the room and noticed that nobody was from [the community] at all,” he said. “That separates the project from the community that I call home.”

He thought it was a bit odd that nobody from Huu-ay-aht was at the Ucluelet open house.

“I think moving forward the way for First Nations to engage with the land is tourism. It’s ecotourism. That’s the way of the future for sure. It involves taking care of the land,” said Bedford.

Local retiree Phil Hood said it’s great that Huu-ay-aht is involved, but thinks it’s equally important that the town of Ucluelet is equally consulted.

“A kayaker kayaking down Trevor Channel is going to be exposed to something pretty out-of-the-ordinary. What’s that going to look like? Do they care about that kayaker?” said Hood.

“I think that it’s really important that that kayaker be a respected voice in the decision as should be the fisherman as should be the environmentalist.”

Kwispaa LNG is a tough sell, adds Hood.

“The concept of tankers coming through the Barkley Sound; that’s a tough concept to swallow,” he said.

Steelhead LNG project manager Nathan Gloag encouraged members of the community to provide feedback.

“Part of our philosophy at Steelhead is to be out in the community as much as possible. We’ve always said along the way that we want to continue to engage with the local community as we progress through the project,” he said.

Since Steelhead LNG and Huu-ay-aht first entered into a co-management relationship in 2014, Gloag noted they have hosted several LNG 101 and community engagement sessions in Ucluelet, Bamfield, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Victoria.

“We understand that not everyone is in support of the project or even agrees with the project, but we are here to provide as much factual information to give people,” said Gloag.

Kwispaa LNG has formally entered the environmental assessment phase.

“We have advanced environmental work into the field and will work the concerns into the development of the project over the next few years,” Gloag said.

Potential project related effects to the environment, as stated in the Kwispaa LNG Project Description, include a destruction of freshwater and marine fish habit, loss of habitat to marine vegetation, a loss of habitat for migratory birds due to the project footprint and from sensory disturbance, and a direct and indirect loss to marine mammal habitat.

A final investment decision for Kwispaa LNG is slated for 2020.

Conceptual rendering of the proposed at-shore LNG export facility at Sarita Bay. (Photo Courtesy of Steelhead LNG)

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