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Squamish council mulls Woodfibre LNG with tour of Dawson Creek

The mayor and four councillors from the District of Squamish wrapped up a two-day tour of Dawson Creek on Thursday, part of a fact-finding mission as the town grapples with the prospect of an LNG export facility on the Howe Sound.
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Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman and councillors look on as staff at Dawson Creek's water reclamation facility give a tour Thursday morning.

The mayor and four councillors from the District of Squamish wrapped up a two-day tour of Dawson Creek on Thursday, part of a fact-finding mission as the town grapples with the prospect of an LNG export facility on the Howe Sound.

Mayor Patricia Heintzman and council came to the Mile Zero City by invitation. The group spent Wednesday touring a Spectra Energy processing plant and were taken to a drilling rig and frack site owned by Arc Resources in the Tower Lake area.

Thursday’s focus was on water. The group toured the city’s water reclamation site, Shell Canada facilities in Groundbirch, and the Encana Corporation’s water hub.

Squamish councillors, some of whom were elected on an anti-LNG platform, are concerned about the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant — a $1.7 billion project that would process millions of tonnes of gas annually for export to Asian markets.

Their reaction to the tour was mixed, however, the consensus was that it was a worthwhile trip.

“(We) really gained an understanding seeing the economic impacts of oil and gas, both positive and negative,” Heintzman told the Alaska Highway News.

Squamish’s concerns with the proposed Woodfibre LNG project centre on protecting the resurgent marine life in Howe Sound.

Although it was useful to learn about how cities like Dawson Creek will benefit from the LNG industry, the tour did little to allay those concerns.

“Howe Sound was essentially a marine wasteland for decades,” Heintzman said. “In the last couple of years, we have humpback whales, grey whales, orcas, dolphins and a real resurgence of the marine environment. We don’t want to jeopardize that.”

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said the goal of the tour wasn’t to "show them the light," but instead to offer councillors a chance to gather their own information.

“It’s about helping try to inform folks who are faced with a decision (on an LNG export facility),” he said.

However, it seems Dawson Creek has more to gain on the upstream side than Squamish does, Heintzman said.

“(Woodfibre) is an Indonesian company exporting to China. For us, there are not a huge amount of jobs with the facility,” she said.

“There are maybe 100 jobs locally and maybe 15 are going to go to people who live in Squamish now. There is going to be a massive influx of people for about a year as they build (the plant)."

Heintzman said Squamish could benefit significantly from tax revenue, but noted that it’s not a sustainable model for growth.

“We don’t see it as permanent tax revenue,” she said. “None of that would go into operational, it would go into reserves (and) building capital or fixing infrastructure. It’s not sustainable funding, just like your Fair Share isn’t sustainable funding.”

Heintzman and councillors are heading to Fort St. John Friday.

dcreporter@dcdn.ca