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VANCOUVER — Pacific NorthWest LNG is scrambling to come up with a Plan B after the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation soundly rejected the Malaysian-led project’s $1-billion cash offer aimed at securing its support for a B.C. liquefied natural gas terminal.
The company said project leader Petronas and its five Asian partners are willing to make changes in response. A key option is to relocate a planned suspension bridge and trestle that the native people said was too close to the environmentally sensitive habitat of juvenile salmon in Flora Bank, which is part of the traditional territory of Lax Kw’alaams.
“It’s about doing the right thing,” Pacific NorthWest LNG president Michael Culbert said in an interview on Wednesday. “We have heard there are concerns about Flora Bank and the stability of Flora Bank.”
The overwhelming opposition by Lax Kw’alaams members in three rounds of voting illustrates the many hurdles – from aboriginal criticisms to environmental concerns – that even the most prominent project among 19 B.C. LNG proposals must clear before becoming reality.
The lure of the money, which would be spread over 40 years, was not enough to overcome the native group’s concerns that the bridge and trestle would harm juvenile salmon habitat in Flora Bank, located next to the proposed export terminal site on Lelu Island in northern British Columbia.
The Lax Kw’alaams council said in a statement the vote “sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue. This is environmental and cultural.”
Flora Bank is a sandy, reef-like area that is visible at low tide. The native group opposes any type of development that it does not consider enviromentally sound.
One possible change for Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposal is to move the planned suspension bridge and trestle that would carry LNG pipes out to tanker ships so that they are angled slightly farther away from Flora Bank, although studies of engineering issues and shipping channels will dictate what is viable.
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