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New FortisBC temporary work camp for 600 workers proposed for Squamish

This and other updates related to the Woodfibre LNG facility presented to District of Squamish council.

Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC delegations presented District of Squamish council members with an update on their associated projects on March 22 at Municipal Hall. 

The biggest news out of the presentations came from FortisBC.

Regarding the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline, the company is proposing to increase the size of its planned temporary work camp from two hectares to seven hectares. 

The company is preparing to submit an application for an amendment to its provincial Environmental Assessment certificate regarding this change, Gord Schoberg, senior manager of municipal and community relations with FortisBC told council.

In its original plans, back in 2016, FortisBC thought some of the workforce would be housed within Squamish, but due to feedback from the community and given the local housing crunch, they are changing their plans, Schoberg said. 

"We intend to address community concerns by housing all non-local temporary construction workers within one workforce lodge site," he said. 

FortisBC expects to house approximately 600 non-local workers during peak periods in a lodge, or camp. 

"Worker orientation includes behavioural requirements that meet or exceed those of FortisBC, including local community and Indigenous cultural awareness," Schoberg said.

The anticipated peak of work, and thus the number of workers at the camp, would be between June 1, 2023, and Dec. 20, 2025, according to the company. 

The facility's proposed site is previously disturbed property south of Quest University.

Road access to the site would be modified to avoid nearby District wells, Schoberg said. 

Access to the site will be from Highway 99, along the Mamquam Forest Service Road for about 3.5 kilometres, then along the Powerhouse Springs Road for another 2.5 kilometres.

"We're aware of commercial and recreational use on the road and intend on minimizing traffic by having construction workers use buses and vans to travel the construction areas," Schoberg added.

Squamish Fortis BC workforce estimates
Estimation of peak staffing at the proposed work camp. Screengrab/FortisBC presentation

FortisBC will also be adding on-site facilities to the work camp, such as lounges, first aid, exercise and recreation areas to reduce pressure on community facilities.

"We recognize the importance of being responsive to the community, which is why we are proposing changes to reduce potential impacts associated with housing our workforce in Squamish," said Darrin Marshall, FortisBC's Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project director, in a news release.

A second planned Environmental Assessment amendment is for a reroute of part of the planned pipeline in the Indian River Valley.

According to FortisBC, the proposed reroute would reduce environmental impacts by realigning a section of the route alongside its existing gas pipeline in the area. The company says it’s working with Indigenous groups on the amendment, particularly Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) as a portion of the reroute would overlap with their Indian River Cultural Site.

The application for that amendment is anticipated to happen in mid-2022.

There will be a FortisBC information session on workforce lodging in Squamish on April 27. Place and time to be announced. 

Folks who can't make it to that meeting can contact 1-855-380-5784 or [email protected].

Find out more of what FortisBC has to say about its project in Squamish online.

Woodfibre LNG

As for the Woodfibre delegation, there wasn't a lot new in their short presentation to elected officials, though a few more details on the year ahead were provided. 

"Overall, across the operations of the company, we've got an approved budget of US$500-million for 2022," said Woodfibre LNG's president Christine Kennedy. 

It was the first time Kennedy has been before council since she took over the role in November 2021.

Council questions

Responding to a question from Coun. John French about the still-lacking tax-benefit agreement between Woodfibre LNG and the District, Kennedy said while the company is "keen to advance those discussions at any time," a non-disclosure agreement needs to be in place due to confidential or proprietary information of major contractors and subcontractors. 

"We're keen to engage whenever that's possible to do so. Is there a date that we have to have a tax agreement in place by? As soon as possible, frankly, but this is a project that will have a relatively long construction horizon, so it definitely needs to be in place by 2027. Although it is definitely my preference to have it much earlier and as soon as possible," she said. 

Coun. Chris Pettingill questioned Kennedy about what he perceives as a lack of public engagement on the project. Kennedy said that until this point, the project was in more of a planning and development stage, but more fulsome engagement is set to begin. 

"We're now, as you know, in the phase where pre-construction is going on this year, and construction would begin in 2023. So now is the time for all of that engagement and consultation to begin; it would not have made sense to have extensive consultations ahead of ...preparation for pre-construction and construction to then begin. So consultation and engagement is forthcoming."

Mayor Karen Elliott asked when the company would have a final notice to proceed. 

This notice is the official word to go ahead from the company owner, which will mark a final commitment, in this case, to get the facility built.

Kennedy said she didn't have a firm date for that final commitment, but pointed to recent company actions and expenditures as hints that a final decision was on the way. 

"We are at a stage where the company is making such a significant investment over the course of this year; we're at a stage where that community engagement and public engagement gets going over the next couple of months. So, the two aren't directly necessarily tied to each other, [but] we hope for that final notice to proceed to happen relatively soon."

Asked by Elliott about the amendment to the company's Environmental Assessment for a 'floatel' to house workers, Kennedy said there would be more discussions about it in the "near future."

Kennedy also said there were discussions with the provincial government but no final decision yet regarding the company using Darryl Bay as a dock to ferry workers to the Woodfibre site. 

"That's still an active, in progress, decision-point for the company," she said in answer to Elliott's question about the dock. "Darryl Bay is a prime spot for the opportunity to transport workforce, to bring them into that location and then transport them to the site, while providing minimal footprint on the community in terms of traffic congestion, and things needing to come right into the community of Squamish.”

She said there would be further future discussions with council and consultation with the community on the dock.

Kennedy was also asked by council to address the issue of housing its anticipated 100 long-term workers in town, given the ongoing housing crunch in Squamish. 

Kennedy acknowledged it is a concern and said that the housing would not be needed for those workers until 2027 when the facility was operational. She noted they would be high-paying jobs with a salary that would likely enable employees to live in town. 

"We need to develop for the company more broadly, and particularly for the operations workforce housing plans, and that's one of the things that we would intend over the course of this year. Not specifically that Woodfibre LNG would drive the process of building more supply in a community like Squamish, but that we need to be aware that our workforce, both in Vancouver and in Squamish, are going to need housing. And that there's that period of time over the course of construction for that housing to be developed," she said. 

Council members, including Elliott, also pointed to the climate crisis and the urgency of getting to net-zero. 

Kennedy said the company was looking for ways to get there. 

Net-zero means to balance the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. For a company, it would mean getting to the point where it adds no incremental greenhouse gasses to the environment.

"We're aware of the objective to meet net-zero. I wouldn't say that we have a specific plan for that yet. But it's something that I'm very keen to develop and that we're committing to moving forward with over the next several years," she said. 

Watch the whole presentation to council on the district’s website.

Paul Watt
Protesters outside muni hall on Tuesday, when Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC representatives were presenting. Photo by Paul Watt

Greeted by protesters

A small protest greeted presenters as they arrived at council chambers. 

A My Sea to Sky organized rally drew about 25 people outside Municipal Hall. 

The environmental group originally formed eight years ago to fight the planned LNG facility slated for the shores of Howe Sound on the site of the old Woodfibre pulp mill about seven kilometres from downtown Squamish.

The protesters were led by Melyssa Hudson, one of the co-founders of My Sea to Sky.

"As a mom with two young children, I am genuinely frightened for their future. We are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. Last year, hundreds of people died in the heat dome, and tens of thousands of people were evacuated due to wildfires or floods. We cannot build new fossil fuel infrastructure like Woodfibre LNG that will increase fracking and lock in climate pollution for decades," she said in a news release. 

Eoin Finn, co-founder and research director of My Sea to Sky, was also on hand at the protest. 

"We've been fighting to stop Woodfibre LNG and the FortisBC pipeline for over eight years. We have successfully delayed these projects since 2015, and we're not giving up. We will stop Woodfibre LNG. We will stop FortisBC. We are fighting for the future of our grandchildren," he said. 

**Please note, the caption for the second photo has been updated since this story was first posted. This was done to reflect that the photo is of an existing workcamp and is not a rendering.

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