Province says ship has sailed on Squamish’s power to regulate ‘floatel’

Click to play video: 'Confusion over controversial floatel near Squamish'
Confusion over controversial floatel near Squamish
WATCH: A war of words has been building over who gets the final say on whether a contentious so-called floatel near Squamish will be deployed. As Alissa Thibault reports, Woodfibre LNG and the District of Squamish disagree on which jurisdiction has the power – Jun 19, 2024

The District of Squamish in B.C. says it still has the power to regulate a cruise ship that will be used to house workers for a nearby liquified natural gas (LNG) plant despite a new provincial order.

The province, however, says that ship has sailed.

Plans for the so-called ‘floatel,’ which will be used to accommodate up to 650 workers on the Woodfibre LNG project, have been mired in choppy waters since the municipality’s council voted in April to deny it a Temporary Use Permit. Councillors rejected the proposal 4-3 citing concerns about potential safety issues for women living in the community, increased traffic, waste management and potential natural hazards.

Click to play video: 'B.C. orders LNG workers onto ‘floatel’ near Squamish'
B.C. orders LNG workers onto ‘floatel’ near Squamish

“The floatel requires land use change from the District of Squamish to be permitted,” Squamish Mayor Armand Hurford told Global News.

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“What is the site access for the services required to support those operations, is it located in a hazardous place, is it safe – those types of things that municipalities are tasked with.”

Earlier this week, the company said it would move ahead with the facility after the Province’s Environmental Assessment Office ordered it to move workers living in nearby facilities to the MV Isabelle X by Friday at 5 p.m.

Squamish council had been set to meet on Tuesday to reconsider the permit issue, but the company withdrew, citing the provincial order which it said overrules the municipality.

The Province’s order requires any worker who didn’t reside in Squamish before September 2023 to live on the vessel. About 300 are currently living in a camp in Port Mellon and another 30 are living in Squamish.

Hurford said Woodfibre may well have been out of compliance with its requirements to the Province, but that the order doesn’t give it the right to proceed out of compliance with local regulations as well.

“Nothing here indicates that this supersedes any zoning regulations, so to achieve this in a compliant way they also need the approval of the municipality,” he said.

“The Province does have mechanisms available to them to compel or to override municipalities … but it is not from a compliance officer at the (Environmental Assessment Office). This, from my reading and in our reading, pushes them back to our process.”

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Click to play video: 'LNG company shows off ‘floatel’ after Squamish rejection'
LNG company shows off ‘floatel’ after Squamish rejection

The Province disagrees.

“Under the Community Charter, municipal bylaws that are inconsistent with provincial legislation, including the Environmental Assessment Act, have no effect,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said in an email.

The Province added that the facility was approved after a multi-year assessment, including extensive engagement with the Squamish Nation, the District of Squamish and other stakeholders.

Squamish Nation Coun. Wilson Williams said many of the issues raised in the district’s permit rejection were already addressed by the conditions it placed on the company through the nation’s own approval process.

“The (environmental assessment) was thoroughly done with consultants and contractors; we had our own Squamish Nation lawyer help us with the conditions, working with our nation, our membership. There was community consultation,” he said.

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“We’ve created amendments to certain challenges like the social issues that people are talking about, but we have already been working on this for many years.”

Click to play video: 'Floating hotel proposed for Woodfibre LNG work site'
Floating hotel proposed for Woodfibre LNG work site

Whatever its reasons for rejecting the proposal, Williams said it was incumbent for the communities to work together on moving forward.

Hurford, meanwhile, said he believes the company still needs to address the fact that it is out of compliance with the municipality in order to move on.

“Local government has all sorts of remedies for situations where there is use happening that is not in compliance with their land use policies,” he said. “As to what those are and what would be appropriate in this case I am not entirely certain.”

The Croatian-built vessel, which remains moored outside of Nanaimo, will be moved into Howe Sound on Friday, a spokesperson for the company said.


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