Lax Kw’alaams claim on Lelu Island could sink Petronas’ LNG project
Read this September 18 Vancouver Sun story on a claim by the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation to Lelu Island – the controversial site for Petronas’ planned LNG terminal in the Skeena Estuary near Prince Rupert.
The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation is seeking aboriginal title to Lelu Island and Flora Bank in order to force changes to the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal, casting further doubt on the $36-billion LNG export project.
Lax Kw’alaams leader Gary Reece said in an interview Friday that while the First Nation is open to development, they want Lelu Island near Prince Rupert to be off-limits. They will go to court next week to claim the land, he said.
Once a claim is established, the First Nation said, governments would be obligated to seek its consent for development.
Pacific NorthWest LNG has already received provincial environmental approval and is awaiting federal approval.
Reece said the federal government’s delegate, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, has repeatedly ignored the First Nation’s concerns over siting of the project. He said the Lax Kw’alaams have deep concerns at the indifference shown by government and the port authority.
If the First Nation is successful in getting the terminal moved from Lelu Island, it could mean a major delay for the project.
“Our traditional law, backed by our scientific reports, has made it clear that Flora Bank cannot be touched by (Pacific NorthWest) or any other company that proposes development,” Reece said, adding that the title claim has support of the 3,700-member Lax Kw’alaams community.
Earlier this month, Pacific NorthWest LNG started test drilling off Lelu Island for engineering work to evaluate soils. The company said the work is taking place away from Flora Bank.
Lax Kw’alaams community members, however, expressed fears that the work would involve removing eel grass from the sensitive bank, which is critical rearing habitat for juvenile salmon. Pacific NorthWest said it did not do so.
At the end of August, Lax Kw’alaams members set up a camp on Lelu Island to prevent its use as an LNG terminal.