Where are we at with the proposed LNG project at Sarita Bay?
In 2014, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations signed an Opportunity Development Agreement (ODA) with Steelhead LNG, a Vancouver-based energy company focused on LNG project development in British Columbia, which commits the two partners to exploring the possibility of a natural gas liquefaction and export facility located on Huu-ay-aht First Nations-owned land at Sarita Bay.
The project proposal was later presented at the November 2014 People’s Assembly, and, together as a Nation, we made a resolution to continue exploring the proposed Project.
The final decision whether or not to support the proposed Project will be made by Citizens in a referendum vote.
The proposed Project would be located on approximately 330-hectares of Huu-ay-aht First Nations-owned land at Sarita Bay, about 10 km north of Bamfield, on Vancouver Island. This site was selected partially due to its easy access to the Pacific, flat topography, deep water, and natural protection in the bay. Not all of the land area would be developed or used for the facility, some of it will also be used as safety zones, which are like buffers for the facility that include trees and other plants. The land would still belong to Huu-ay-aht if the project were to go ahead, but the land would be leased to Steelhead.
The proposed Project is laid out in four stages:
Stage 1 is the Preliminary Assessment and Screening phase where the initial environmental and technical assessments are conducted, as well as extensive community engagement. Current Phase
Stage 2 is the Feasibility phase, which will involve expanded environmental and technical studies.
Stage 3 is the Basis of Design phase, which is when the basis for technical and project development is established.
Stage 4 is when Designing of the Facility takes place, and includes comprehensive environmental consideration, and is prepared for engineering and construction.
After these stages, the final investment decision would take place and if it is positive, then construction would begin.
Timeline on Negotiations
We are currently in Stage 1 in the project development process. This means that a decision still needs to be made whether to proceed with the proposed Project or not. We are in active negotiations with Steelhead to negotiate agreements, which would define the nature our relationship with Steelhead throughout the project.
We need your help to “get this right!” Feedback and participation from Huu-ay-aht citizens throughout the process will ensure that the proposed Project is developed in a way that respects the culture, environment and other interests of the Nations.
Sept./Oct. – Ongoing information sharing and negotiations.
November – A full report on the negotiations will be delivered at the People’s Assembly.
If relationship Agreements have been reached Executive Council will decide whether to start a referendum process.
Dec./Jan./Feb. – If a referendum is held, there will be intensive community engagement similar to when we voted on treaty to ensure free, prior and informed consent by offering as much information as possible and answering questions.
March – Referendum vote. This is either the beginning or the end. A “Yes” vote means the proposed Project will move ahead into the feasibility and basis of design phases. A “No” vote means no. Exploration of the project ends, no further discussion.
All Things Considered
The proposed Project is being guided by Huu-ay-aht regulations and will only take place after full and transparent consultation with our Citizens and if it meets or exceeds our highest principles of ʔisaak (iisaak), ʔuuʔałuk (uu‐a‐thluk) and hišuk ma c̓awak (hishuk tsawak). We are making every effort to thoroughly research and understand the proposed Project and make a decision that is inclusive of our values and assures the best interest of our people, socio-economic impacts, and the environment. We have a great respect for the environment and aim to ensure that the lands and waters in and around Sarita Bay will continue to sustain future generations.
We are doing everything we can to ensure the proposed Project works for the people. We are in a unique position in that we are involved very early on at the outset of the proposed Project. This means that we have a much greater opportunity to ensure our interests are taken into account. The challenge is that we will not see a detailed design for some time. Therefore, we aim to negotiate a relationship agreement with Steelhead LNG that ensures that our rights and interests are respected, if and when the project comes to the Feasibility and Basis of Design stages.
We are seeking agreement to develop a framework with the following elements:
- Project Oversight Board, to ensure the rights and interests of Huu-ay-aht are respected
- Environmental Parameters, to safeguard the environment
- Revenue Sharing, to benefit the Nations
- Employment and Business Opportunities, to secure our future
All of which would be legally binding once we reach a relationship agreement.
Project Oversight Board
We are seeking to negotiate the establishment of a co-management Project Oversight Board with the resources and expertise to ensure Huu-ay-aht interests are protected and that World-leading environmental management is the rule not the exception. This would be a first in British Columbia.
We aim to ensure that the Project is designed, constructed, and operated to avoid, minimize, or mitigate harmful impacts on the environment including environmental, economic, social, cultural, and health effects, and also accidents and malfunctions.
While the proposed Project will indeed have some real or potential effects on the immediate environment (e.g. alteration of wildlife habitat and changes in landscape, impacts on water quality, noise, and traffic) we will first identify and study those effects in-depth. These studies will be undertaken by our own team of environmental experts, scientists, engineers, and in participation with Huu-ay-aht citizens and those with traditional knowledge about Huu-ay-aht lands and resources. The proposed Project will also be subject to a rigorous environmental assessment process through the provincial and federal governments, and we are seeking to ensure that it will meet or exceed all applicable regulatory requirements.
We will make every effort to not only restore, but even enhance the environment and resources (e.g. by seeking to protect key areas such as Diana Island or restoring the Sarita and other rivers in our territories, as well as overall natural resource enhancement).
To achieve our vision and create certainty for our people, we need to provide economic opportunities, social, cultural, and recreational programs for all Huu-ay-aht. As a self-governing nation, we are committed to implementing our Strategic Plan and will need to become financially independent to provide for our own programs and services, whether through the LNG project, if citizens support it, or through other economic development opportunities.
Jobs and Benefits
The proposed Project has the potential to create meaningful jobs for our citizens, and revenue generated from the proposed Project could improve our quality of life today and for future generations to come. A number of jobs have already been created during the preliminary investigative stages and, if the proposed Project proceeds, we could expect many more during construction and operations. There are many different types of jobs that the proposed Project would require including:
- trades positions (gasfitters, electricians, welders)
- equipment operators
- administrative positions
The proposed Project would also generate spin-off jobs and business opportunities in the following sectors:
- other service sectors
Given the lead time of a project of this scale, we would be able to prepare and receive the training needed to fill many of these employment opportunities from within our Nation directly.
The Balancing Act
Since time immemorial we have understood that we are all connected and the implications of our actions affect all that is around us. There are both positive and negative impacts that could result from a project of this nature. We are making every effort to present balanced information for our Citizens to review and decide for themselves.
At the end of the day, it will be up to citizens to decide whether the benefits and accommodations to Huu-ay-aht outweigh the costs and environmental impacts.
Like Treaty, we would very much like to meet with citizens and families one on one to provide as much information as possible.
We are committed to ensuring Citizens have the best answers we are able to provide to their questions prior to a referendum vote.
Attending a Community Engagement Session is one of several opportunities to learn more about this project over the next few months. We don’t have all of the answers, but we will do the best we can to find out.
Civic Engagement is the blueprint of democracy. As Citizens, by engaging in your community and accepting your civic responsibility, you can ensure that your democratic and rights and values are being upheld.
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The information provided in the following resource links is for informational purposes only and do not necessarily represent the views of the HFN Government.