As provincial representatives inked their signatures over the line they ratified multiple benefits agreement for Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla that totals $144.5 million and transfers 28.86 square kilometres of Crown land to the two nations.
“I think the benefits that would accrue from this project, should it go forward or when it will go forward, are huge for our community members and goes a long way to address the needs in our communities,” said Mayor John Helin of Lax Kw’alaams at the announcement today.
The multiple benefits agreements are tied to the potential operation of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project on Lelu Island, and the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Natural Gas Pipeline Benefits Agreement. Should the project move forward, Lax Kw’alaams will receive a total of $98.5 million for community projects, communications infrastructure and a Trust Contribution.
The agreement also hands over 19.4 sq.km of Crown land to the nation, including a 0.6 sq.km parcel of Wampler Way that will be jointly owned with Metlakatla. Lax Kw’alaams will also receive a 0.4 sq.km Quarry parcel. More land will be transferred over to the community in a five-year time frame once construction phase of the project begins.
The province also committed to $50 million in transportation infrastructure as soon as construction starts. This would be in addition to the $20 million already provided by the government for the Tuck Inlet road project, a 17.5km paving of the road from the ferry to the community.
A coastal fund is another part of the agreements that will deliver a one-time $295,000 benefit to Lax Kw’alaams with another annual benefit of $590,000. Once liquefied natural gas (LNG) is being shipped from its North Coast facility, the band will receive production benefits of $0.024 per tonne.
Metlakatla also gets a significant slice of the coastal fund with a one-time benefit of $250,000 and an annual benefit of $500,000, and once LNG is being shipped the community will receive $0.02 per tonne.
“What was most important to Metlakatla was the protection of the air, the water and the land. We felt we accomplished it by working in partnership with the province and with Pacific NorthWest LNG,” said Chief Councillor Harold Leighton of Metlakatla First Nation.
He said that some of the early benefits from the project were to upgrade their marine facilities and vessels, as well as upgrading members to prepare them for potential good paying jobs.
“The size and the scope of the agreements that we signed are unheard of. We’re quite excited about that. These aren’t opportunities just for Metlakatla these are for our partners in Prince Rupert and Port Edward and the whole region. Everyone is going to benefit from this project,” Leighton said.
Metlakatla will receive $46 million in funding, $5 million of that for signing the agreement today. The province agreed to give $17.5 million to develop a seniors care facility and $3.5 million for shellfish aquaculture.
Included in the agreements is a 1.64 sq.km section of South Kaien Island to be transferred to Metlakatla, as well as approximately 7.8 sq.km on Digby Island and a small section of Port Edward.
“For both (nations) it means seeing the benefits of a growing economy in their communities. It means being full participants and owners of an industry that is going to make a difference in their communities,” Premier Christy Clark said.
The benefits agreements were signed without a final investment decision from Pacific NorthWest LNG. Petronas, the majority stakeholder, is currently reviewing its proposed $36 billion project and may be considering an alternative site in the region.
In response to the why this deal was made before the project is green-lighted to move ahead, Rich Coleman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Gas Development, said that they’ve already finalized pipeline agreements across the north.
“This is a very significant move. This is First Nations stepping into a relationship with the government, with the company, to build a long-term relationship for their jobs and their economies,” Coleman said.
He added that Petronas and their partners are now working through this with the First Nations to get to a final investment decision.