The board of directors of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has turned down a permit request from TC Energy to build a pipeline work camp near Houston.
The Temporary Use Permit (TUP) is for a 42.94 hectare area on the Morice River Rd., about 25 kilometres south of Houston, that forms part of Coastal GasLink (CGL)’s Huckleberry Multi-Use Site. TC seeks to build a temporary work camp, equipment storage site and contractor yard there.
The camp, which CGL has been planning out for more than a year would accommodate up to 800 workers during the pipeline project and the construction, use, and reclamation of the site is expected to last three to four years.
CGL wanted to start clearing the site this month.
Under Section 492 of the Local Government Act, TUPs can be issued for temporary uses as long as several conditions are met, including that the use won’t create traffic levels that adversely affect the environment, rural character or property owners and doesn’t require a large financial investment in a particular area, among other conditions.
At its Sept. 19 meeting, the RDBN board considered TC’s application and had recommended that the permit be approved.
However, it was voted down by the board members and criticized in a speech by Bobby Seinen, who lives on Morice River Rd.
Addressing the board, Seinen said the increased road traffic poses safety concerns and other issues.
“It affects the safety and rural character of our area. Traffic is 24-7. There are 11 school-age children that must be driven to and from school twice a day on that road. We would like a legacy. That road has been slated to be re-surfaced since at least 2005. It is down to sub-grade. Two hundred and fifty vehicles go up and down that road a day, often in convoys and do not follow the road users radio protocols,” she said.
Seinen also complained that she hasn’t been invited to safety meetings of the road users management group and has received little communication from CGL regarding the road.
“I would expect the regional district to support me in being able to be a part of the road safety management group. I don’t feel like I’m getting support from anyone. I feel like Alice in Wonderland knocking on a series of doors and nobody answers.”
In response to Seinen, Electoral Area G director Rob Newell said he agreed with her completely, urged that there be more communication with CGL and wants the safety concerns with the road to be dealt with as soon as possible.
After Seinen left the meeting, James Steffenhagen, Health and Safety Manager with Pacific Atlantic Pipeline Construction (PAPC) spoke to the board and recognized her concerns.
“We’re not in the business to put anybody in danger. When we do a construction site or a pipeline it is to make sure that our workers are safe and that anybody in the area is not put in danger,” he said.
PAPC has been contracted to build the two sections of the CGL pipeline that run south of Burns Lake and west to just before Kitimat.
CGL representative and assistant construction manager David Jonasson also spoke to the board and said the company takes the safety issues raised by Seinen seriously.
“There are concerns with increased traffic along that road,” he said. “We realize that poses certain challenges. We have been engaged by Canfor to participate in the road users committee. It’s concerning that we hear these woman’s issues. We’re going to use that committee as a forum to address them. We want to do anything we can to improve them.”
Gladys Atrill, a director from Smithers, said she wants to know what steps the company is taking to address local citizens’ concerns.
“People have to be sensitive that it’s a residential area. The overriding responsibility is to the citizens in the area,” she said.
In an email to Lakes District News, a CGL spokesperson said the company is “reviewing the decision by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako on a permit application made by Coastal GasLink to understand and determine next steps.”
Though the permit request was defeated, it could be brought back for consideration at a future meeting.