TransCanada’s plans to build camps for hundreds of pipeline workers are attracting concerns from officials at the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN), which is questioning the company’s approach to liquid waste disposal, invasive plants and other issues.
The RDBN is planning to review the potential effects of a proposed work camp at Tchesinkut Lake — about 15 km south of Burns Lake — but another proposed camp, located south of Houston, could soon be under scrutiny.
Planning officials from the regional district say TransCanada has refused to apply for permits for the Tchesinkut Lake location until after contracts have already been awarded for the construction and operation of the proposed facility.
“TransCanada’s position appears to assume that their facilities will be allowed as proposed,” said RDBN planner Jennifer MacIntyre in a memo to the RDBN board. “The delay in making the necessary applications will minimize the local community’s ability to play a meaningful role in the land use decision-making process.”
A permit from the district is also likely be required for the proposed Huckleberry work camp — located south of Houston near Morice River Road and the Morice River Forest Service Road — said RDBN planning director Jason Llewellyn.
“Following the review of the Tchesinkut Lake site we will consider initiating a review of the Huckleberry Site,” Llewellyn said, adding that TransCanada hasn’t yet identified the “exact footprint of the Huckleberry work camp location.”
The camps are expected to house hundreds of Coastal Gaslink (CGL) workers during peak periods of pipeline construction. The CGL pipeline would carry natural gas from Dawson Creek to a planned LNG Canada facility at Kitimat where it would be super-cooled and exported.
Tchesinkut Lake concerns
Concerns about the Tchesinkut Lake camp were outlined in a March 3 report stating that TransCanada should consider upgrading public infrastructure to deal with liquid waste at the facility.
“It would be a shame if money is spent unnecessarily on hauling waste long distances, or building on-site disposal facilities which will be abandoned, rather than investing in improving local community infrastructure,” according to the report.
The report also argues that TransCanada should commit annual funding to the Northwest Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC) in order to fight the spread of plants that the regional district says will spread along the pipeline route. “The cost of combating these inevitable invasive plant outbreaks will be at the expense of the residents of the RDBN if TransCanada does not contribute to the NWPIC,” the report says.
The RDBN also wants TransCanada to make sure all wood harvested along the pipeline route is used — partly to avoid the spread of the spruce beetle among fallen logs — and for the company to develop an emergency plan so that it doesn’t rely on local fire or emergency services. The report also calls for TransCanada to commit to hiring local and Indigenous workers and to set up a formal process for public complaints related to pipeline construction.
At a meeting on March 15, the RDBN board approved plans for a review of the effects that the Tchesinkut Lake camp would have on the community — a process that could be followed by a review of the proposed Huckleberry camp near Houston.
RDBN staff are planning a public meeting to inform the public about the Tchesinkut Lake work camp, and to give people a chance to ask questions and provide feedback about the project. No date has been set for the public meeting.
Pipeline in planning
Asked to respond to concerns that TransCanada is delaying its permit applications, company spokesperson Jacquelynn Benson said the pipeline “remains in the planning process only” until the LNG Canada consortium makes its final investment decision about the export facility in Kitimat.
“We will not move forward until that decision occurs,” she said in an email. She also stressed that the company has engaged in dialogue with the regional district since planning began in 2012, and said that it will participate in public consultations.
“We have held numerous public open houses, presentations and meetings to discuss the project in the community,” said Benson, adding that the company began sharing its plans for the work camps with the regional district in 2015.
LNG Canada has indicated it could make a final investment decision later this year, while TransCanada has said that construction in the Tchesinkut Lake area could start as early as January 2020 provided a final investment decision is made.