A letter from the Ministry of Natural Gas Development’s Brian Hansen, ADM and lead negotiator, as well as the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations’ Duncan Williams, executive director, sent to the North Coast Regional District (NCRD) regarding the adoption of the NCRD Official Community Plan (OCP) in February has irked director and Dodge Cove representative Des Nobels.
With the NCRD scheduled to give second and third readings and hold a public hearing by Feb. 17 on adopting a land use plan for Electoral Areas A and C (Dodge Cove and Oona River), the ministry’s letter asked for a delay in adoption due to concerns found with the bylaw on the part of the province and because “key consultation with the Ministry of Natural Gas Development, as well as key business lines responsible for LNG facility development within the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations did not occur.”
“We are concerned that the OCP may result in local processes that create redundancies and conflicts with existing provincial and federal assessment and evaluation processes. Also of significance are the proposed amendments to the policies within the existing Dodge Cove OCP and its boundary expansion. The amendments appear to attempt to prohibit key elements of the proposed LNG facility (Aurora LNG) development, in an attempt to render the project infeasible,” wrote Hansen and Williams, adding that a rural designation and rural and parks designations expansion surrounding Casey Cove would prohibit the access necessary for the proposed LNG facility on Digby Island.
The two added that the Aurora project is still in its early stages with regulatory approval and investment decisions still yet to be made and ask that the NCRD board ensure its planning process is coordinated with the province and defer adoption of the bylaw until “adequate consultation with the Province has occurred.”
Director Nobels said he was in “total dismay” with what the province was proposing.
“In my mind the province has been asleep at the wheel. They were part of this process from the word ‘go’ and they have an issue. Unfortunately this seems to be the case all along. We’re always, shall I say, an afterthought as opposed to up front,” he said.
On Feb. 22, the NCRD board held a special meeting in which staff was directed to work out any outstanding concerns the province has with the OCP, what timelines the ministry is looking at with respect to consultation and how the consultation will be funded. The meeting was attended via teleconference by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, but not the Ministries of Natural Gas Development or Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, who were anticipated to attend according to the meeting’s minutes.
The board told the attending members from the province that the NCRD won’t entertain delaying the consultation and bylaw process to better serve the timelines of the province and Aurora LNG and requested specific timelines, concerns and funding for additional consultation in writing.
A recommendation was made for staff to travel to Vancouver or Victoria to hear the province’s concerns and to mitigate issues where possible.
A public hearing with respect to the OCP bylaw has been scheduled for March 22 at 7 p.m. at 353 5th St., Prince Rupert.