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Updated: Squamish council pushes floatel decision off into future

At the June 4 meeting, council referred the TUP for the WLNG floatel back to muni staff; Woodfibre LNG 'dismayed with the ongoing delay.'
Protesters assembled at Squamish Municipal Hall prior to the council meeting on Tuesday night.

The long voyage of the Squamish floatel from proposal to its journey's end will continue, with the District of Squamish council voting to defer a reconsideration of a previously rejected Temporary Use Permit (TUP) pending more information to be gathered by District staff.

The floatel, to be moored southwest of Squamish in Howe Sound, is proposed to provide accommodations for 652 workers involved in the WLNG project.

The vote, made at the June 4 regular council meeting came after the floatel TUP came before council for a third time in as many months, and brought with it more requests for information and the promise of another public hearing in due course.

In short, the TUP has been referred back to staff, with staff directed to gather information with the proponent on four points; an increase to the security deposit from $2 million to $10 million; the risk (if any) that the Henrietta Lake poses to the floatel; for WLNG and FortisBC to work together in identifying cumulative impacts resulting from their projects; and "an understanding of current compliance with project conditions."

The issue of Henrietta Lake incurred some discussion around the initial decision not to do a hazard assessment, with staff noting a flood hazard assessment would be "unusual" for a floating structure, but it remained on the list of asks.

A fifth point proposed by Coun. Chris Pettingill to seek clarity on where WLNG workers housed on the floatel stayed on their weeks off was rejected, with Mayor Armand Hurford pushing back, saying that they could not regulate workers on their time off. Pettingill explained that he was not seeking to regulate where workers stayed when not at the floatel, but wanted to confirm the efficacy of having a floatel in the first place in that it sought to keep workers out of the community, and prevent them from taking up housing. Despite his clarification, his proposal was not picked up.

With six elected officials present—Coun. Jenna Stoner was away—the vote was 5-1 in favour of the motion to refer back to staff on the four points, with only Coun. Eric Andersen voting against.

Andersen stated that he believed requiring more information on cumulative impacts and conditions was straying into what he described as "extraneous issues" not directly related to the TUP before them—a move he said invited "chaos" into the process.

The timeline of the TUP being referred back to staff was unclear, as identified during discussion at the meeting, but it, along with the additional information, will come back to a committee of the whole in the near-term for further discussion.

During the June 4 meeting, councillors indicated a desire for it to continue from there to a public hearing at some point, which Hurford said would be up to two-weeks after the committee of the whole meeting.

While the public notice for the reconsideration of the TUP on June 4 included notes from the District of Squamish saying it was not an opportunity for public input, it was what the Squamish council got anyway: A modest crowd of around two dozen protesters turned up half an hour before the meeting to make their opinions known. Many then sat through the majority of the meeting, through to the decision on the TUP, diligently holding up signage with anti-LNG slogans for councillors to see.

Despite Hurford making a few attempts at the beginning of the meeting to explain that it was not an additional public hearing, Hurford and the council allowed four members of the public to speak to the issue in the lead-up to the formal decision.

Of the four, Chief Dale Harry of the Squamish Nation said the district was adding logistical hurdles in delaying the process, while the remaining three spoke against the TUP on a range of issues from general opposition to oil and gas, to concerns around the impacts of work camps on communities, and issues with the process itself in allowing WLNG to say it would be happy to increase the security deposit from $2 million to $10 million immediately after the previous rejection, which then prompted Coun. Andrew Hamilton to exercise his right to bring it back for reconsideration.

That input, together with further correspondence to the district and various letters going still back and forth on the issue appears to be what motivated council to decide that an additional public hearing was appropriate.

Woodfibre LNG response

In response to the decision Tuesday night, Woodfibre LNG told The Squamish Chief on Wednesday morning that the company is “dismayed with the ongoing delay” from the District council.

“Council did not call the motion on the agenda yesterday. Instead, they passed an amended motion to refer the TUP back to staff for additional reporting on four issues, each of which has already been addressed in prior council meetings and the April 23 public hearing,” reads the emailed statement from the Woodfibre LNG spokesperson. 

“These include additional security funding; information on any risks associated with the Henriette Dam, information that District staff previously informed council was not needed and outside council’s scope; confirmation of compliance matters that are matters of Provincial jurisdiction, and continued efforts by council to conflate the two separately-regulated Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC projects by demanding additional ‘cumulative impact’ assessments despite the TUP application clearly relating only to Woodfibre LNG and being focused on ensuring that Project workforce does not impact the community.”

The statement said that other than the security funding already addressed, the additional matters raised are outside the District council’s jurisdiction, are unrelated to the TUP and do not require a committee of the whole or a public hearing.

“It is concerning that District council seems to be trying to delay the temporary zoning authorization for an already-approved workforce housing solution that will accommodate 652 workers outside the community while simultaneously asserting the possibility of ‘cumulative impacts’ on housing. Any such impacts would be the direct result of council inaction.”

The company is still committed to the floatel, the statement reiterated, noting that the provincial government and Squamish Nation approved the housing solution for the project. 

“Consistent with years of District of Squamish requests to house the project workforce outside the community. We will review the path forward with District staff and other levels of government.”

**Please note, this story has been modified since it was first posted to clarify that Mayor Hurford said the public hearing would be up to two weeks after the committee of the whole, rather than a legislative requirement, as was first implied.