By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Nov 5, 2014
Squamish council voted to defer a FortisBC application to drill boreholes in the Squamish estuary for a geotechnical investigation for a proposed natural gas pipeline for Woodfibre LNG.
Fortis says the drilling will provide subsurface data to design a trenchless pipeline crossing of the Squamish River and parts of the Squamish River as part of the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project.
It was a unanimous council vote to defer the application until the district gets complete information on all boreholes drills being proposed by Fortis. [manual_related_posts]
Fortis plans to test six boreholes sites, but the development permit application before the district on Tuesday, Nov. 4, was only for three boreholes.
Fortis doesn’t yet have the authorization from the province to drill on three locations on the west side of the Squamish River.
Those three (BH 1, 2, and 3, see map above) falls within the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and the province has asked the Fortis to provide additional information.
The other three boreholes (BH 4, 5, and 6) are on the east side of the Squamish River. Boreholes 4 and 6 are on the training dike while borehole 5 is located within the estuary.
District staff suggested to Fortis they “decouple” the three boreholes in the WMA from the other three boreholes so Fortis can proceed with its work.
Staff said they suggested this decoupling for three reasons: The initial drilling can yield good information, a limited weather window for helicopter access, and a better customer service for Fortis BC.
“We want to provide a smooth process,” said district planner Gerard LeBlanc.
Fortis BC’s proposal for a geotechnical investigation for three boreholes outside the WMA complies with the district environment policies and development area guidelines, the staff noted.
Planner Sarah McJannet said council has limited discretion in issuing development permit when the applicant meets all the guidelines.
Staff recommended the council issue a development permit, but council chose to defer the decision until more information is available.
Coun. Ron Sander first made the suggestion to defer the development permit.
“It’s bizarre for us to take the lead on this,” he said.
Coun. Heintzman said she would rather see this as one application.
“Without all the information, I don’t think it’s appropriate that we deal with this,” she said.
Coun. Doug Race was reluctant, reminding the council about ‘procedural fairness’ on issuing such permits.
He said the council often argue for smoother process for applicants and this application was no different. If this wasn’t about a pipeline for Woodfibre LNG, the council won’t be having this conversation, he added.
Three community members also spoke to the council, urging the council to reject the development permit application and seek more information on the source of the natural gas.
Speaking to the council, local citizen Hans Schaer said FortisBC, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, and other government agencies haven’t been forthcoming in providing more information about gas shut offs and other emergency protections.
“They are not good citizens at all,” he told the council.
Council candidate Auli Parviainen also urged the council to reject the development permit. Councillors are there to present the public interest, not the interest of FortisBC, she said.
It’s not clear what information the province is seeking from Fortis BC or when it may grant authority to drill the test sites in the Wildlife Management Area.
FortisBC is expected to provide more answers in a presentation it will make before council next week.