The work camp that was supposed to be built for the Coastal GasLink project behind the Vanderhoof airport has been rejected by the Agricultural Land Commission.
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen said the council’s intentions are that the camp be built behind the airport and Coastal GasLink should appeal the decision.
The property where the 900-person work camp was to be located is within Agricultural Land Reserve.
Avtar Sundher, director of operations for the Agricultural Land Commission sent a document to The Omineca Express on Monday, Oct. 21, explaining the reasons behind rejecting the work camp at that location. All the information below has been taken from that document.
The district of Vanderhoof applied to the ALC to use 19.3 ha of the 61.7 ha property to build the temporary work camp that would house workers during the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project. The duration of the proposed temporary use is up to 30 months.
Two issues the panel at ALC considered were whether the proposed camp should be located on the property within the ALR and secondly whether the proposal would impact the agricultural utility of the property.
Coastal GasLink told the ALC that the District offered the location to meet the needs of a large work camp. They also stated that the proposal would bring work and contractors to the area which will result in economic benefits for the district.
However, the panel deciding the fate of the work camp noted the Agricultural Land Commission Act no longer considers economic, social, cultural or regional and community planning objectives and that all decisions must be made through the lens of preserving agricultural land.
On the first issue, whether the proposal should be located on the property within the ALR — the Commission found that the proposal should not be located within the ALR if it can be reasonably located outside the ALR.
The Commission received public comments identifying an alternate site for the camp on land outside the ALR and within a few kilometres of the proposed site.
In response to these comments, Coastal GasLink confirmed the alternative site was considered, but was deemed secondary to the proposed location due to concerns with access through the ALR and wetness issues that would require earthworks.
“The panel did not attempt to determine the viability of the alternate location, noting that the feasibility of locating the camp outside of the ALR does not depend on the viability of just one alternate site. The panel finds that the Applicant has not demonstrated that the camp needs to be located on the Property.”
The second issue was whether the proposed camp would impact the agricultural utility of the property.
The ALC said the property is currently growing barley and is partially forested. Based on the agricultural capability ratings and current use, the panel found the property has secondary agricultural capability.
The proposed site is 19.3 ha out of which 7 ha is currently cleared and 12.3 ha is bush. The work camp would require the entire site to be cleared.
Moreover, Stantec submitted a report saying the proposed area would be reclaimed to an agricultural standard once the non-farm use has concluded. But the panel was concerned the introduction of large quantities of gravel, utilities and compaction necessary to construct the camp will significantly impact the land and create potential difficulties remediating the land.
Lastly, the panel considered public submissions and comments from Coastal GasLink and while they considered the economic benefits of the project, they found those economic considerations are not contributory to the decision. And the agricultural benefits stated by Coastal GasLink do not outweigh the negative impacts to agriculture both on property as well as to neighbouring properties.
So for the reasons mentioned above, the panel refused the proposal.
Suzanne Wilton, Coastal GasLink communications lead said the company is currently reviewing the ALC decision to determine the next steps.
The Coastal GasLink project spans 670 km from Groundbirch, B.C. to the proposed LNG Canada export facility near Kitimat, B.C. Another camp close to Vanderhoof is in Lejac.