Kitimat councillors push back on marine plan drafters

Kitimat expressed a need for the creators of a north coast marine plan to delay a comment deadline due to poor public consultation.

Councillors invited representatives of the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) to speak to their document and process, but were not-too-subtly challenged by councillors upset over the plan’s short time frame for comment and their seeming reluctance to offer an extension.

“Some type of extension I believe is warranted because for whatever reason a significant amount of people felt rushed,” said Mario Feldhoff following a presentation on the plan.

Speaking to the plan was Steve Kachanoski from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Craig Outhet for the North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society, and Andrew Webber with the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District.

The plan is a joint First Nations and provincial government initiative to craft a use plan for B.C. coasts and marine areas.

The plan won’t cover issues such as marine transport — that falls under Transport Canada, a federal jurisdiction — but the plan will point to areas of interest for things such as fish harvesting and renewable energy.

“It’s a partnership between 18 different First Nations including members of North Coast Skeena First Nation Stewardship Society [NCSFNSS],” said Craig Outhet, a marine planning coordinator for the NCSFNSS, in the May 21 Northern Sentinel.

An open house on the project to show the public the draft plan ahead of the conclusion of public comments on June 3 was held but it sparked a response from many, including council, who felt there was not a lot of local input.

“It seems locally, I know people who are part of every one of those groups and they had no idea this was going on,” said Phil Germuth.

He also questioned how the drafters of the plan assembled the advisory committee given a number of local groups were unaware of the process.

Kachanoski said they send communications out to known active recreation, commercial and tourism groups. For example the local Sport Fish Advisory Board was contacted to participate.

“We fanned out to known associations and users within the communities and just calling for representation,” he said.

But it’s not too late for Kitimat council to comment.

“If there’s information that comes specifically as a result of this meeting…we will do our best to incorporate those comments for our plan.”

Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she wanted Kitimat Council included in reviewing the final draft of the plan as well, pointing to feelings of exclusion given First Nations groups’ involvement in the process.

“Do we ever get to see it? Are you going to present it to us, the final endorsement?” she asked. “You’re saying the Aboriginal people are getting to see it, I wonder if we do too.”

Kachanoski said they’d take requests for extensions to the public comment to the advisory board.

The board for the Haida Gwaii plan did receive a two week extension under different circumstances, he added.

 

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