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Squamish council again critical of FortisBC’s pipeline construction yard and lodge plans

FortisBC says ‘it is in the best interest of the District of Squamish to provide a timely decision’ for its TUP applications.
Council members during the discussion of FortisBC on July 11.

Several council members again criticized FortisBC’s plan for its construction yard and workforce lodge.

Meanwhile, the company says it hopes the District of Squamish makes a decision soon about its Temporary Use Permit (TUP) applications.

At a committee of the whole meeting on July 11, council heard an update on the company’s TUP applications for both the construction yard and workforce lodge. This update comes about six months after its last update in February, during which council members were critical of the details provided.

These TUP applications are for the Eagle Mountain - Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project, which will see a gas pipeline run through Squamish, below the Squamish Estuary, then emerging at the Woodfibre LNG site on Howe Sound.

These applications include a construction yard on the Mamquam FSR near the Powerhouse Springs Road intersection, as well as a workforce lodge further north on Powerhouse Springs Road near the former Quest University campus.

“We believe it is in the best interest of the District of Squamish to provide a timely decision on the temporary-use permit application,” wrote FortisBC spokesperson, Jillian Drews, in an email to The Squamish Chief following the meeting.

In a split vote, council approved receiving the updated reports from staff and delivering their latest feedback from the meeting to FortisBC. 

The vote on the construction yard passed by a 5-2 vote, with councillors. Jenna Stoner and Lauren Greenlaw opposed. For the workforce lodge, the motion passed unanimously.

When discussing the construction yard, Stoner questioned whether it was worth spending more time on that particular application.

“The continued feedback that we’re getting from the proponent is not addressing the concerns that this council or community has raised over the past few months,” she concluded.

On the other hand, Coun. Eric Andersen thought it best to work with FortisBC through “constructive” feedback as the District are the experts on the land. 
"We ... are the experts on our land base” and therefore have been and are in a position to constructively offer facility site location suggestions to Fortis BC, he said. 

The motion for the workforce lodge passed unanimously, but there was some hesitancy for a few council members.

“My feedback is mostly coming out of a point of fear and frustration,” said Stoner, pointing out the alternative from FortisBC is offering a living out allowance to the workers, should the lodge TUP not be approved.

“Despite my frustrations with the work camp, I think that is a better option than providing living out allowances to 600 people in a really tight rental market.”

Although Greenlaw voted in favour, she said eventually if the lodge is not alcohol-free then she will not vote in favour of a TUP since there is a “direct correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual violence against women.”

“If the proponent is taking the concerns raised by our community members regarding sexual violence against women seriously, then they should have a dry camp.”

Conversely, Coun. John French expressed confidence in FortisBC.

“I trust they will come back with updates addressing the concerns that have been expressed,” he said.

Vehicle traffic

Although much feedback was given about the applications, the majority was on vehicle traffic, the impact on the neighbourhoods and businesses, and the lack of an alternative or community amenity contribution (CAC).

FortisBC had a third-party traffic impact assessment conducted, however, District planner Vrish Prahalad said that there were outstanding questions about it.

The traffic assessment given to the District offers an average daily vehicle impact but Prahalad noted they have asked about peak vehicle traffic not just daily averages.

FortisBC later told The Chief it expects the average number of daily vehicles on the road to peak at 135 vehicles during the 2024 and 2025 summers.

The company said it intends to have a lane of traffic at all times on the Mamquam FSR, provide additional recreational parking, assume maintenance and dust control, and upgrade the road.

Prahalad relayed that FortisBC said it will not dissuade workers from bringing personal vehicles and will not implement a shuttle from Vancouver to Squamish.

Impact to surrounding neighbourhoods and business

Also discussed was the impact of the construction yard and lodge to both the Valleycliffe neighbourhood and Quest University area as well as the conflict with the Squamish Canyon project, which was approved by the last council in 2021.

According to District staff, FortisBC has said they will not allow worker access to Quest from the Carpenter Son’s Bridge with patrolling security.

Still, Hamilton said the location of the yard to Valleycliffe would create conflict.

“Conflict is almost certainly to arise in the Cherry Drive neighbourhood,” he said.

Hurford, Greenlaw and Hamilton were concerned about the negative impact this would have on the Squamish Canyon project. 

Prahalad responded that these two projects have been in talks with each other.

Lack of alternative ideas and community amenity contribution (CAC)

A point of feedback from Hurford was the lack of an alternative location from the beginning for the lodge or construction yard. 

FortisBC later said an alternative plan would be to locate the yard in town.

“The alternative for our proposed construction laydown yard would be finding an industrial location in the District of Squamish,” said FortisBC’s Drews, who added part of selecting the Mamquam FSR was to reduce “the volume of traffic” in Squamish and on the highway.

Drews said the location of the yard reduces the impact on Squamish because it's near the project’s pipeline route.

Lastly, Prahalad said there were no CACs proposed by FortisBC with the application.

“Seeing a legacy proposal that is zero,” Hurford paused, “leaves me speechless.”

However, FortisBC refuted that claim.

“FortisBC is in discussions with the District of Squamish on providing funding towards a potential community benefit associated with the EGP Project.”

To view this council meeting, visit the District’s YouTube page or read the report from council’s July 11 agenda.

**Please note, this story has been corrected to more accurately portray Eric Andersen's comments. Originally, it sounded like he was saying FortisBC were the experts, but he said/meant the District. The Squamish Chief apologizes for this error. 

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