Sechelt (shíshálh) First Nation is opposing a plan to transport coal by train from Wyoming to the top of Texada Island where it will be stored awaiting shipment by large freighters to Asia.
The proposal is to move coal from Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD) on barges through the Sabine Channel, a sacred fishing area in shíshálh territory.
“What are they thinking? The Sabine Channel is a pristine fishing and environmentally sensitive area,” said Chief Garry Feschuk in a statement. “It would be pure recklessness to proceed with this plan without proper consultation. The shíshálh Nation has not been consulted, although the huge barges will travel through our territory.”
No health or environmental impact studies have been done to properly assess the impact of shipping coal through its territory, Feschuk added.
“We will not allow this reckless project to proceed without proper consultation and in-depth assessment of potential impacts to our nation and the Sunshine Coast,” he said.
FSD has applied to Port Metro Vancouver for a project permit to build coal-handling facilities within its existing terminal operations that would allow the direct transfer of coal from trains to barges. The barges would carry coal to Texada Quarrying Ltd., owned by Lafarge Canada Inc., where it would be stored before transfer to deep-sea vessels for export to Asia.
Eighty Texada Island residents have written to Lafarge urging the company to support Dr. Paul Martiquet’s request for an independent health impact assessment. Martiquet is Vancouver Coastal Health’s medical health officer for the Sunshine Coast. Dr. Perry Kendall, BC’s provincial health officer, Dr. Patricia Daly, Vancouver Coastal Health’s chief medical health officer, and Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Fraser Health Authority’s chief medical officer, have all called for an independent health impact assessment of the proposal.
The shíshálh Nation stated a full environmental assessment, as well as a health impact assessment that includes consideration of coal dust transfer during barge transport, are required prior to any further consideration of the project. As well, it requires the development of the following plans: a navigational risk assessment; an environmental management plan; a spill response plan; and an air quality management plan.
“We have been in contact with the provincial government and will be seeking prompt resolution to this serious breach of provincial responsibility,” the shíshálh statement concluded.
Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation Chief Clint Williams said it has been working on developing a memorandum of understanding with Lafarge.
“We are still in discussions with Lafarge,” he said. “We’re looking for commitments on environmental monitoring and making sure that these environmental monitoring concerns are addressed.”
Tla’amin is requesting air, ocean, shellfish and fish monitoring, Williams added. “Basically, it’s every natural resource that surrounds the site.
Once a memorandum of understanding is reached, it will be brought to chief and council to either approve it or not, Williams said.