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NCRD briefs: less confidence on resource benefit agreement with province

The North Coast Regional District meeting highlights on glass sponge reefs and UBCM preparations
A wind turbine being set up for an offshore wind farm. (NaiKun Wind Energy contributed photo) The Resource Benefits Alliance anticipates $30 billion will be spent on non-LNG projects in the next 10 years, and although the projects will be developed outside the municipalities’ scope, they want to share a chunk of the investment. (NaiKun Wind Energy contributed photo)

Resource benefit alliance less confident in new government

Following a promising meeting with the provincial government, the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) felt “overwhelming reaffirmation” that the new provincial government was on its side — but the tone has since changed.

With the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference, the RBA members were looking forward to discussions on a new revenue-sharing model for its 18 communities and three regional districts.

However, a letter sent to the North Coast Regional District on Sept. 20 from the provincial government put a damper on those plans for establishing “fair return” to the northwest.

“The RBA had productive meetings but this letter came out of left field in the last couple of days and the tone wasn’t as positive. That will be addressed at UBCM,” said alliance co-chair and Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, acknowledged the RBA’s mandate, but also stated that among other benefits the North Coast and Nechako regions receive higher per capita funding, $758, compared to the Northeast region $473, and the Mainland and Southeast region, $46.

Members of the North Coast Regional District voiced concern that in the letter the provincial government was suggesting that the region is already getting its fair share.

“We’ve articulated we have over $600 million in infrastructure deficit,” Brain said. “We’re going to set up a meeting with the premiere about this.”

RELATED: Resource Benefits Alliance buoyed by discussions

Management plan for the glass sponge reefs

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is creating an advisory committee for the ancient and fragile glass sponge reefs found in the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound region.

The approximately 2,410 square kilometre area where the reefs were found was declared a marine protected area (MPA) in February 2017. In October, DFO plans to have meetings with the Hecate Advisory Committee in Vancouver to assist in developing a management plan for the reefs.

At the meeting it was decided that Des Nobels will represent the regional district in the committee, and Urs Thomas will be his alternate. DFO expects to have a final draft of the management plan between November 2018 and February 2019.

RELATED: Fishing closures for Glass Sponge Reefs on the North Coast

No Aurora, no delegations

Aurora LNG had originally planned on presenting an update on their project at the North Coast Regional District meeting on Sept. 22 but the week prior Nexen had nixed its plans for Digby Island.

“Our community, last Thursday, was notified that the Nexen project was cancelled, which was quite a surprise,” said Des Nobels, who represents electoral area A, Dodge Cove, on Digby Island. “A huge weight lifted off the minds of people in the community.”

Despite questions regarding what will happen with the section of land Nexen was investigating for its project, representatives cancelled their delegation to meet with the regional district.

Dangerous goods transportation

Nobels also raised concerns over the growth of the port activity and the lack of communication regarding incidents and emergency preparedness. He said there is no coordinated structure to address incidents at this time.

The regional district moved to write a letter to the Port of Prince Rupert to sit down with them and ask how the chain of communication will function in case of emergency.