Work camps approved

Two work camps north of Fort St. John were approved at the latest Peace River Regional District (PRRD) meeting, which will mean 800 new people living in the Peace Region.

The move comes after concerns arose from the City of Fort St. John about what impact the camps would have. The responses from these companies were largely satisfactory, according to a letter from city officials.

"(Oil and gas companies) don't want to be the bad guys," said Greg Wilson, whose company, Wildfire Land and Cattle Co., wants to build the two camps.

The first came proposed would house 500 people in the Pink Mountain area northwest of Fort St. John. The second camp would house 300 people near Gundy Creek road about 120 kilometres northwest of Fort St. John.

The camps would be temporary housing for people working on oil and gas projects in the area.

One of the questions posed by the city was about the camp's water supply; the respondents replied that it would use water from the Sikanni River.

On-site sewage lagoons would be used rather than municipal facilities.

These shifts would be designed to allow for workers enough time to return to their "home" communities rather than staying in Fort St. John, something that the administration said would reduce the impacts on the city.

The company would provide transportation to worksites and camps from a central parking location, reducing traffic on roads.

"They want to keep people off the highway," said Wilson. "That's their big concern."

The PRRD directors also asked questions about the proponents.

One asked the proponents about workers going out of the camp, drinking on a back road, and then coming back to the camp while intoxicated.

However, the proponents said that because this was a "dry camp," there would be random drug and alcohol searches, and that people who came back to the camp after smelling of alcohol would no longer be allowed to work there.

The letter also touched on other work camp issues.

Currently, many work camps in the PRRD are issued "temporary use permits" to allow them to build there.

However, one PRRD director took issue with this.

"A temporary use is not appropriate for these camps because of the investment they're making," said Fort St. John Lori Ackerman. "We've had some camps out there for decades that are more permanent than temporary."

Fort St. John city manager Dianne Hunter said that a work camp proponent "would prefer a more stable and predictable type of permitting."

Hunter also indicated that one current camp operator said that he had not paid any taxes on improvements made to his work camp in over 20 years.

"A more comprehensive approach permitting camps may be warranted," the letter states.

Hunter's letter also stated that they found it "hard to fathom that a 1,700 worker camp (for Site C) outside of the city will not be required to pay any taxes."

The letter stated that "there was a general agreement that there needs to be a broader discussion about how camps and communities need to support each other."

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