The Kitimat Housing & Community Profile produced by the Community Development Institute at the University of Northern BC (UNBC) in 2016, highlights the fact that the number of seniors in Kitimat “is on a consistent growth trajectory.”
“While the total (Kitimat) population shrunk by 7.3 per cent between 2006 and 2011, the number of residents aged 65 years and older grew by 16.8 per cent and the median age rose by 3.4 years to 44.4,” reads the report. “Regionally, the number of seniors is expected to more than double in the next 20 years.”
“Forecasts for the Kitimat Local Health Area (LHA) predict that, while the total population increases by 3.8 per cent between 2011 and 2026, and 6.3 per cent by 2036, growth of the 65+ populations will be 77.3 per cent and 106.3 per cent respectively.”
Startling figures, but hardly a surprise to most long-time Kitimat residents who have seen young people move away to make a life for themselves and their families, and seniors moving into Kitimat to retire.
This shift in the population has seen increased pressure on the health care system in Kitimat, pressure which is likely to increase as the population continues to age.
It was therefore quite auspicious when the Northern Sentinel was invited to attend a very special occasion – the announcement of the first, major donation towards the Dementia Care Home planned for Kitimat.
The fundraising drive was launched in earnest in July with the donation of $750,000 by LNG Canada, the announcement made at a special fundraising thermometer set up on the lawn on the corner of Haisla and Lahakas boulevards.
Speaking at the announcement, LNG Canada spokesperson Susannah Pierce said the donation towards the home was part of the company’s strategy to be “a fantastic corporate partner.”
“LNG Canada’s plans are for our people to work here and live here and be part of your community. This donation is just the beginning of the beginning,” said Pierce.
The $750,000 is being split into three amounts – the largest chunk, $500,000, will go towards the construction of the dementia home.
Kitimat Valley Institute will receive $200,000 for the implementation and delivery of a Care Aid course.
“The program is being made available to locals so that they can upgrade their skills and work in the home,” said Pierce.
The final $50,000 which will help with community education and dementia awareness so that they can recognize the signs early
“It’s an exciting time for us – it puts us well on our way to reaching our campaign goal of $5 million. We are confident this donation will provide motivation for others to follow,” said Doug Thomson, KVHS president.
The Kitimat Dementia Care Home will serve the residents of Kitimat and Kitamaat Village and will introduce a model of dementia care that is very much different than that usually experienced in small communities.
“The contribution from LNG Canada follows generous infusions of dollars received from a District of Kitimat housing grant, a $422,000 donation of land from Civeo Corporation, and monies donated through the Kitimat General Hospital Foundation,” said Thompson.
Meanwhile on the other side of town, Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club executive pro Winston Michell and head pro Dan Martin were raising funds for the ALS Society of BC during the gruelling day-long fourth annual PGA of BC Golfathon.
The two started off early choosing to battle each other in a 10-round 180-hole match.
“I must admit that with two us playing it was slower. On top of that the course was busy later on with the nine-and-dine, but Dan moved pretty quickly for an old guy,” said Michell.
“The match actually went to the last hole in the tenth round where I won ‘one-up’.”
The duo managed a staggering 11 rounds of golf – 198 holes – when the sun setting forced them back to the clubhouse. Michell and Martin raised over $3,000 through pledges from club members, friends and family.
The Golfathon is held by the PGA of BC across the province, with over 30 golf courses participating in the one-day event.
Education in the region came sharply into focus with news in July that School District 82 superintendent Katherine McIntosh would be taking a temporary assignment with the Ministry of Education.
McIntosh started her new role in September to support and work provincially on the implementation of the Framework for Enhancing Student Learning.
“Katherine will focus on supporting school districts to improve student outcomes, while acting as a liaison between the Ministry of Education and the education sector,” wrote board chair Shar McCrory at the time.
The provincial framework would create a system-wide focus on student learning, identifying differences in performance among particular groups of students, particularly Indigenous students, children in care and students with special needs.
It would also include evidence-based strategies for improvement that are measurable and outcome-focused, according to the ministry’s website.
The Board of Education extended the appointment of Janet Meyer, the school district’s director of human resources, as acting superintendent until August this year.
The announcement followed news of McIntosh’s leave of absence earlier that month, the one-year transition plan of three popular administrators after numerous protests denouncing their reassignments to teaching positions, and a 99 per cent vote of non-confidence by the Coast Mountain Teachers’ Federation in June.
The Ministry of Education funded McIntosh’s new position – despite the vote of non-confidence a Ministry spokesperson said McIntosh was hired because of her “proven track record of improving student success.”
Visitors to Kitimat were greeted by a new sight entering town – a new welcome sign outside the visitors’ centre on Forest Ave.
The Kitimat Chamber of Commerce and the visitor centre Terrace artist Joerg Jung to create the sign, which greets visitors in Haisla, English and French. The sign consists of four pieces: the main sign, and three separate pieces, two trees and an eagle.
It replaces the sign that was carved by Kitimat artist and signwriter Heidi Born, which has greeted visitors to Kitimat for many years.
The main sign was carved out of Douglas Fir, from a consignment of wood he bought that was originally used on the Rio Tinto site. The eagle and the two trees were carved from cedar, sourced from Bish Cove area old growth.
July saw weather extremes, hot, dry conditions with one or two lightning storms close to Kitimat, storms which were responsible for two wildfires that broke out in the area.
Northwest Fire Centre fire information officer Carolyn Bartos said the first wildfire, reported by a motorist started 23 kilometres north of Kitimat along Highway 37 close to the Kitimat River bridge.
The second wildfire – reported by a commercial airline pilot flying between Terrace and Vancouver two days later – was reported to be half a hectare in size at the time.
The fire started about 35km east of Kitimat, high up on the bank of the Kitimat River, on very steep, mountainous terrain.
Classified a “fly-in fire”, the fire was being tackled by two Initial Attack Crews of four members each, assisted by a helicopter dropping buckets of water onto the flames.
The fire, named R50896, was classified as Rank 2, a fire which burns in the surface fuel layer, excluding the crowns of trees. Initially the weather played along, with a light breeze blowing, but torrential rainfall later in the day forced the fire crews to vacate the area.
A landslide high up in the Kitimat River valley dumped tons of soil into the waterway, forcing the District of Kitimat to shut its pumps down and send out an urgent appeal to residents to conserve water.
The landslide along the bank of the upper reaches of the river occurred in a remote spot inaccessible by road.
Pipeline construction company Coastal GasLink (CGL) dispatched a helicopter to patrol the river and spotted the landslide three kilometres upstream from where the company had worked on creating a right of way for the nearly 670km pipeline which will deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas facility in Kitimat.
“The CGL team have confirmed a landslide but not from our activities. A chopper was taken up the river to confirm and we found the location where a rainstorm caused a landslide,” said Coastal GasLink spokesperson Natasha Westover.
The summer also saw increased industrial activity in the district, contractors taking advantage of the weather to get a jump on construction related to The Project (LNG Canada).
BC Hydro announced it would be spending$82 million to ensure that LNG Canada has enough electricity to produce the liquefied natural gas at its facility.
BC Hydro spokesperson Dave Mosure said $58 million of the $82 million for the LNG Canada Interconnection Project would come from BC Hydro, LNG Canada contributing the remaining $24 million.
He said the project to upgrade the power supply to Kitimat’s industrial zone involved installing a new 287-kilovolt double circuit transmission line from BC Hydro’s Minette Substation on Smelter Way to the LNG facility.
The new transmission line will run along an existing right-of-way where a decommissioned overhead line was dismantled in February 2019. The project also provides for system reinforcements and additional electrical equipment at Minette Substation.
“BC Hydro is also working to provide distribution service to support construction-related activities, which includes the worker camp and construction power. Distribution service will run underground to the worker camp,” said Mosure.
He added, however, that service for construction power would run on existing overhead distribution circuits.
Mosure said costs for the LNG Canada Interconnection Project were calculated using BC Hydro’s tariffs “as with any other industrial customer.”
Pacific Northern Gas announced in July that it was planning on reactivating and expanding its Western Transmission pipeline running from Summit Lake to Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert to service industrial projects in the region. Bringing the pipeline to its full capacity would give residential and business customers in the region long-awaited respite from exorbitant rates.
“I’m very cognizant the rates you have are quite high,” said PNG business development director Brock John. He added, though, that compared to other energy sources, natural gas rates had been mostly flat because of its abundance in B.C.
The lack of large industrial customers in the region has affected smaller business and residential customers from Vanderhoof to the coast. Currently, those customers pay the highest delivery rates in the province — as much as two and a half times what Fortis B.C.’s customers pay on the Lower Mainland.
“If you have a line that’s built for 115 million [MMscf – million standard cubic feet], and it’s only running at 35, then you have a lot of costs that you have to apply to those customers that are left on the system,” said John.
“Therefore, one of the main objectives here is to try and get that utilized, which will ultimately result in some reduced rates for residential, commercial and industrial clients in this area.”
Since the loss of PNG’s largest industrial consumers – Eurocan’s paper mill and Methanex Corporation’s facility – the company had been looking for new contracts to utilize the unused supply.
Kitamaat Village also took time last year to start preparing for an influx of Haisla members moving back to the region to work on the industrial projects.
Apart from completing a housing project in the village, the water system also received a$4 million upgrade.
Work on the project included installing new water supply lines coming into the community and sinking a third wellhead next to the HNC administration building.
“The system was designed for future supply for generations to come,” said Haisla Nation Council Clerk of the Works Colin Light. “We planned for growth.”
He said that growth includes planning for more people and more demand for water on reserve and on nearby lots, should they be developed.
Light said discussions around the need for upgrades to the water system began in 2015 following ongoing water interruptions in the village. The water system dated back to the late 1960s, with a few upgrades in the 1980s as the number of residents in the village increased and a new subdivision was added.
He added that the project had not only ensured a reliable stream of clean water for generations to come in Kitamaat Village, but also resulted in two full-time positions created by the project’s prime contractor Daudet Creek Contracting.
August came around with a bang – literally and figuratively – with the demolition of one of Kitimat’s oldest buildings in the Service Centre.
A few gentle nudges from earth moving equipment was mostly all that was needed to bring the walls of All West Glass’ service centre location tumbling down.
Long-time employees Doug Paterson and Carol Dale took to the shop front windows with a sledgehammer to kick off the demolition, which lasted three days from demolition to clearing rubble from the site.
All West Glass president Laura Stanton, based at the company’s head office in Smithers, said the new building will be a dramatic improvement on the old one.
She said the new building is very similar in design to the last two buildings the company built in Chetwynd and Dawson.
Current Kitimat branch manager Colin McCormick said the new building will have taller doors that will allow taller vehicles like buses and bigger equipment to drive into the workshop.
At the old building, working on the taller vehicles involved working under tarpaulins in the winter and choosing nice days in summer to park vehicles outside and work on them.
The Northwest Regional Airport also felt the impact of increased industrial development – in August the airport was already on track to beat its previous record for passenger traffic figures set back in 2014.
Buoyed by two major industrial projects, Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter rebuild in Kitimat and BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, there were 253,368 passengers recorded moving through the airport in 2014.
With early construction work ahead of The Project there had already been 135,677 passenger movements to the end of June.
The 2018 completion of an expanded departure seating area to accommodate just under 500 people means the airport is well-suited to handle the additional traffic, he added.
Passenger traffic began to increase in 2018, ending in 240,253 movements. From March to the end of June 2018 each month had seen more than 20,000 passengers moving through the airport.
June alone saw 24,154 movements, gaining on the current monthly record of 24,670 movements set in August 2014.
Hopes that Kitimat’s mini-golf course would be resuscitated were dashed in August when District of Kitimat graders moved in to pull up all the old structures and tangled growth to make way for a new park, a welcome addition to the space already provided by Centennial Park.
The District bought the 0.22-hectare piece of land from the previous owner of the Chalet.
“The DoK had the land appraised before starting negotiations with the owner and paid $370,000 which should be reflective of fair market value,” said the DoK Community Planning and Development director Gwen Sewell.
“Park infrastructure will be a Budget 2020 discussion item. Kitimat Council will determine what improvements will be funded and what year work will start.”
DoK Leisure Services director Martin Gould said no definite decisions have been made as to what the park will look like.
“We’ll be deciding what to do with the park next year,” added Gould.
Tamitik Status of Women and the Haisla Nation solidified and recognized an existing strong working relationship by signing a memorandum of understanding in August.
The MOU paves the way for increased programming and paid staff members for the organization, as well as training and work opportunities for Haisla members currently providing social services and those studying towards a career in social services.
Haisla chief councillor Crystal Smith said while the HNC wanted to provide additional services for its members, it didn’t want to duplicate existing services.
“The HNC wanted to enhance TSW’s services throughout the region. This is part of council’s ongoing commitment to reach out to other organizations that serve our members, to enhance those resources,” said Smith.
The work on an agreement began in earnest after the June 2017 elections which saw her being appointed chief councillor. She had been acting chief councillor after taking over from Ellis Ross after he announced his candidacy for the Skeena MLA in December 2016.
She added that having Haisla members working at TSW also brings cultural relevance to the organization, helping staff to appreciate the intricacies of the Haisla culture and working with Haisla members.
Through the MOU the Haisla Nation Council will support paid positions within TSW.
The irony wasn’t lost on readers when the Northern Sentinel ran with two stories related to Rio Tinto BC Works in one edition – a massive fine for a safety incident at the plant and the awarding of an international safety award to a BC Works employee.
A $662,102 fine was issued on July 19 following an investigation by WorkSafeBC into an incident involving two employees inside a gas treatment centre reactor.
BC Works employee union Unifor Local 2301’s business agent Cliff Madsen said the March incident involved two management personnel.
“Mistakes were made and [the personnel] ended up trapped in an energized reactor. At some point an hourly employee responded and was able to release them. This was a very serious safety situation that could have had a fatal outcome,” said Madsen.
The WorkSafeBC penalty summary published on its website confirmed it had investigated an incident at the smelter.
“While conducting maintenance work inside a gas treatment centre reactor, two workers were trapped inside the reactor and sustained exposure injuries. WorkSafeBC determined that work had been done without all locks in place as required by the firm’s confined space key box procedure,” reads the summary.
WorkSafeBC’s penalty summary reports further that BC Works failed to ensure that energy-isolating devices were locked in a safe position using acceptable procedures made available to all workers required to work on the equipment.
“In addition, no record of a risk assessment for the work task was available, and the key box procedure did not name all the participants who applied locks. This was a high-risk violation.”
Michael Brown became the first Canadian to receive the World Safety Organization’s Safety Person of the Year 2019 award, the highest individual safety award in the world.
Brown, Apex One Management Group CEO and health safety and environment (HSE) director, was nominated for unparalleled professional HSE services and showing exemplary integrity and highly proficient ability at an international level
As part of his contract with BC Works as HSE specialist in their engineering division, Brown oversaw contractors and construction projects on Rio Tinto BC works properties.
LNG Canada received welcome news in August – the scrapping of the tariffs on the massive prefabricated steel modules which will arrive in Kitimat on barges sailing up the Douglas Channel.
Ottawa’s decision, however, was met with anger from Canada’s major construction unions who denounced the decision to provide tariff and duties relief on the steel modules.
The relief, extended to all major LNG projects in Canada, effectively shuts out the possibility of creating capacity to build the modules at home, said the United Steelworkers (USW) and Canada’s Building Trades Unions alliance (CBTU).
“There is no justification for the Government of Canada to hand over the largest construction project in our country’s history to Chinese steel producers who engage in unfair trade practices,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.
“As Canada’s steel construction industry has stated, this scandalous decision by the Trudeau government could cost a massive loss of Canadian jobs.”
Both the LNG Canada plant and the smaller Woodfibre LNG plant in Squamish will be modularized, meaning the projects will be built in small, shippable pieces with the equipment and components pre-installed and connected on site.
CBTU, which represents 14 trades unions, said the decision to import these modules duty-free impedes their ability to attract workers during a growing shortage of skilled tradespeople.
“We need to work closely with industry and government on how to balance progress while protecting Canadian jobs,” said Arlene Dunn, Director of CBTU. “The use of modules at the LNG plant may very well address a lack of domestic supply, but these are not the last modules to be used in Canada.
Movie magic took over Kitimat and Kitamaat Village in September with the shooting of a mini-series based on Haisla author Eden Robinson’s book Trickster.
September saw the last installment of Northern Sentinel stalwart and columnist Allan Hewitson’s weekly column – his first column in the newspaper appeared on May 15, 2002.
September ushered in news of two applications for cannabis stores going out for public comment, as well as the District of Kitimat looking at beefing up legislation controlling the use of cannabis throughout the District.
Applications for a store at 432 Enterprise Ave. and 213 City Centre approved by the provincial government’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) and sent to the DoK for consideration.
District of Kitimat Director of Economic Development Mike Dewar said at the time that council would make its decision of whether to approve the applications based on feedback received from the public.
Opposition to the applications was muted, concerns over the location of the City Centre mall location in close proximity to the bus stop and entrance of the mall.
Burning lungs and watery eyes marred Labour Day weekend celebrations when a turn of weather patterns resulted in Kitimat being blanketed by thick smoke from the burning of waste.
Kitimat’s fire department stepped in and ordered the contractor responsible for disposing of the waste to put out the fires.
Fire chief Trent Bossence said the fire department had received 22 complaints from irate residents complaining of difficulty breathing, sore throats and watering eyes.
“The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the impact that these burns have on the public as well as the environment with a focus on how to proceed in the future,” said Bossence. “It was made very clear that the circumstances that took place over the long weekend were not acceptable.”
In a web poll conducted by the Northern Sentinel an overwhelming 82 per cent of respondents said they had not received advance notice that burning would take place in Kitimat over the Labour Day weekend.
Bossence said JFJV had agreed to provide the fire department with a plan to prevent the Labour Day weekend situation from happening again.
“The idea is to work together in respect to when burning should take place and to come to an agreement on what are considered to be favourable conditions to burn in,” said Bossence, adding that supporting the health and well-being of the public and the environment in the process of removing waste is a priority for both JFJV and the District of Kitimat.
Any large-scale open burning of waste requires a permit which is issued by the Kitimat Fire Department. Bossence said in order for the permit to be issued there are a number of conditions that must be met.
He stressed that as soon as any of the conditions in the permit are breached, the permit may be cancelled by him or another member of the fire department’s management team designated to do so.
Disbelief ensued over the granting of permission to Kitimat’s Sandhill Materials owners Arthon to construct an RV park in the town’s Service Centre.
Councillors voted unanimously to grant Arthon a temporary use permit (TUP) for a 100-berth RV park situated on vacant land behind the old Haisla Taxi depot, between the railway line and Haul Road.
As the land is zoned G5 – Forestry, a TUP is necessary to allow the development to go ahead. TUPs are issued for a short-term period, retaining the property’s zoning while allowing temporary development to proceed.
Arthon’s permit expires in 2022 and the company then has the option to renew the TUP one more time.
The proposed access to the RV park is currently along 3rd Street, over the railway line, making a left onto Haul Road to the park’s entrance.
In a letter submitted to council, local businessman Leonard Kaberry expressed concern that the added traffic would impact the businesses along 3rd Street.
City engineer Alex Ramos-Espinoza said a Traffic Impact Assessment would be conducted to highlight any problems with regards traffic along 3rd Street.
“If there are any significant impacts we will start looking at other routes,” said Ramos-Espinoza.
Arthon, through engineering firm McElhanney, was requested to look at an alternative access road further along Haisla Blvd. towards the entrance to the sandhill.
As a condition of the granting of the TUP, Arthon is responsible for any costs that stem from road and intersection improvements.
Councillor Lani Gibson requested that a gathering area and shared barbecue facilities be included in the plans for the park.
“I feel when I look at the design that it’s like putting a bunch of people in like sardines. I know that the workers will work long hours and probably won’t do much more than work and sleep, but I feel that we’re not really treating them like humans,” said Gibson.
The councillors unanimously supported Gibson’s amendment which has been added to the conditions listed on the TUP.
Other conditions for the granting of the TUP include a landscape plan that outlines vegetation retention, with buffers and screens completed to the district’s satisfaction, a drainage plan that mitigates any impact on other properties and on watercourse that runs south of the proposed park and that recreational vehicles be registered and insured for the road.
The iconic Kitimat viewpoint received a major facelift with the clearing of hundreds of trees and brush along Haisla Blvd., opening up the vista for motorists to enjoy an unfettered view of the Douglas Channel.
October ushered in the 2019 federal elections which saw new faces enter the race to win the Skeena Bulkley Valley Member of Parliament seat vacated by NDP stalwart Nathan Cullen.
Cullen served as MP for the district since 2004, becoming the 38th MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley, a position he held and maintained with strong showings at the polls in the 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015 elections, garnering close to 50 per cent of the votes with each election.
Vying for his post were three candidates from Kitimat – Jody Craven, Danny Nunes and Claire Rattée, as well as Merv Ritchie, Michael Sawyer, Rod Taylor, and Taylor Bachrach, who went on to win the riding by more than 3,000 votes over his main rival, Rattée.
Bachrach, who won 40.9 per cent of the popular vote, stressed the need to seriously address global climate change during his acceptance speech, saying he was looking forward to working with the other parties on the matter.
Bachrach also emphasized his desire to achieve universal pharmacare.
Les Field and his family had a rude awakening when a car came crashing through a wall, ending up in their recreation room.
Les, his wife Ellen and their son Herbie were at home early one Tuesday morning when a motorist who suffered a medical issue lost control driving down Wakashan Ave., sped across the intersection into the parking lot of 863 Lahakas Blvd. before crashing into the family’s home.
“I thought Herbie had knocked something over, the TV maybe, but when I walked out the condo I saw the red minivan sticking out a hole in the side of the condo,” said Field. The driver was still sitting behind the wheel in a daze.
The minivan had crashed into the rec room where Herbie had just been in – had it not been for the fact that he walked out of the room to give his mom a hug before leaving the house, he would have been inside the room when the accident happened.
The crash left a six by four-foot hole in the wall, flinging debris across the room and cracking the TV, severing the waterline and dislodging the gas meter.
The month ended with good news for a tight Kitimat housing market –a Vancouver developer had invested over $7 million on property alone as the company looked to develop housing in Kitimat ahead of the LNG Canada boom.
IAG Enterprises chief operating officer Alex Watson said the company is hoping that the development, which doesn’t have a name yet, will attract strong interest from local buyers.
“The ideal situation would be that someone from Kitimat would buy a unit. The units will undoubtedly be bought by people who live and work in Kitimat,” said Watson at the time.
The District of Kitimat’s Advisory Planning Commission reviewed and approved the application for the development in September.
Minutes from the meeting indicate that the development will consist of 1, 300, 1, 600 and 1, 800 square foot units with garages and unfinished 900 square foot basements that could be converted to living space.
The commission found that while driveways and garages were long enough to accommodate full-size pickups, no allocation had been made for oversized boat or recreational vehicle parking spaces other than on the eight visitor parking spaces provided in the site plan.
Watson said the North Star, which has stood empty for years, will be retrofitted to provide 40 rooms with a restaurant and bar open to the public.
Local campers also received good news last year that will relieve overcrowding – massive changes for Radley Park before the facility opens again in spring this year.
The changes include more campsites, an online booking system and a limit on the number of days a site may be booked.
District of Kitimat leisure services director Martin Gould said the three-phase project would end up creating at least 55 new campsites.
The new campsites will also be larger to accommodate the larger recreational vehicles (RVs).
In the spring of 2020 and the fall of 2020 Gould said the new campsites will be opened as they are completed with fire pits, shelters, power hookups and picnic tables.
“Additional items such as roadway lighting, pathways and wood bins will also be added,” said Gould.
He said the bulk of the work will be carried out by District of Kitimat employees, with some work most likely to be carried out by contractors.
With regards to the repair of the riverbank along the front of Radley Park, Gould said the rip-rapping of the bank will most likely start by March 2020 as soon as permits have been secured and the tenders for the work have been awarded.
Another change welcomed by especially local recreational users is the enforcement of a 14-day booking limit, which will also be included in the online booking system.
While the bylaw was passed in 1990 preventing campers from staying longer than 14 days in a municipal campground, it hasn’t been enforced.
He said following the passing of the 2018 bylaw preventing camping on the riverbank, it is felt that there would be an increased demand for campsites in the next number of years.
In the summer of 2019 alone Gould said staff had reported a nearly 20 per cent increase in campsite use.
To make it even more equitable for visitors, and locals who want to pop down to the park for the weekend, the DoK will also make 25 per cent of the total number of campsites at Radley Park non-reservable.
Starting in 2012 and ending in 2014, both Radley Park and Hirsch Creek Park experienced significant numbers or campers staying for extended periods during the camping season. This extended camping was likely directly related to contractors staying in the parks during the retrofit of the Rio Tinto Aluminium Smelter and various community projects associated with this work.
Arguably the biggest news story of 2019 was the introduction of far-reaching changes to the monitoring of sulphur dioxide levels in the Kitimat airshed will be gradually phased in following the culmination of a mediation process between Rio Tinto, clean air crusaders Lis Stannus and Emily Toews, and Unifor Local 2301.
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ENV) Director: Authorizations North director Ed Hoffman said the remedies resulting from the mediation process conducted by the BC Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) will significantly improve monitoring of air quality in the Kitimat airshed.
The changes to Rio Tinto BC Works’ permit and the company’s Environmental Effects Monitoring program (EEM), which determine the maximum permissible levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) BC Works is permitted to release into the air and how the SO2 levels are monitored, are contained in the EAB’s decision, along with a number of other instructions.
The EAB’s decision ended a nearly six-year campaign by Stannus and Toews, and later, Unifor Local 2301, to reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2) that residents in the district are exposed to.
At the conclusion of the lengthy, mutually agreed-upon mediation process, the parties came to an agreement on July 25 this year, ending the appeals and resulting in a document that will have far-reaching implications for BC Works and Kitimat – the Consent Order.
The Consent Order stipulates changes to several clauses in Rio Tinto BC Work’s SO2 permit and the EEM program, specifically related to monitoring the impact of sulphur dioxide emissions on human health.
The parties also came to an agreement on the installation of a fourth air quality monitoring station in Kitimat. BC Works currently operates two monitoring stations in Kitimat (Whitesail and Riverlodge) and one in Kitamaat Village.
The installation of the fourth monitoring station, which was originally meant to be up and running by October 1, was delayed as a result of lease negotiations with CN, on whose property the station will be permanently situated.
Currently, the station is situated on District of Kitimat land in the Service Centre adjacent to the CN station, as per an agreement between BC Works and the DoK for temporary use of the land. The Consent Order stipulates that BC Works has to submit to provincial government “a draft comprehensive review of EEM Plan results from 2012 to 2018,” including the results from the air quality monitoring stations during that period.
BC Works will also have to post minutes and information from the Kitimat Public Advisory Committee (KPAC), which consists of members from a number of organizations, including the DoK, the Haisla Nation, the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group (KHAG), Kitimat Valley Naturalists, Kitimat Rod and Gun Club and Unifor.
KPAC is a forum that allows its members to directly address BC Works with concerns about air quality.
Most significantly, the Consent Order also paves the way for the establishment of the Kitimat Airshed Group, which will facilitate ongoing discussions among stakeholders, report to the provincial government on airshed management and protection, review air quality data and promote public awareness of air quality in the Kitimat airshed.
The First Nations LNG Alliance welcomed its new chair in November 2019 – Haisla Nation chief councillor Crystal Smith. Interviewed following her appointment, Smith said one of her priorities as the new chair would be to encourage B.C. First Nations to become more involved in LNG and related projects.
“First Nations are no longer bystanders – we have steadily moved beyond simple financial Impact Benefit Agreements and into the realm of working partnerships with LNG and pipeline developers, and associated companies,” said Smith, adding the Alliance will also focus on facilitating ownership of LNG projects by First Nations.
She said the Alliance would continue to look at fostering real partnerships and joint ventures between contractors and First Nations.
She said the Alliance has many roles in furthering opportunities and prosperity for First Nations and their people, with a mandate that is “remarkably wide, deep, complicated, and important.”
“We ensure that First Nations impacted by LNG and associated pipeline development are being involved as fully as possible in the developments and that they are aware of the potential, as well as all the impacts that development may have on their communities and their people,” said Smith.
Crime came under the spotlight in November last year with the release of Maclean’s Magazine annual Crime Severity Index (CSI) report, which ranked Terrace and Prince Rupert as the 8th and 11th most dangerous Canadian cities respectively.
While Kitimat doesn’t feature in the list of 237 cities ranked by Maclean’s – the magazine only focuses on towns with a population of over 10,000 – the town nevertheless saw an increase in its CSI.
According to StatsCan, Kitimat’s CSI for 2018 jumped from just over 77 in 2017 to nearly 93 in 2018, a 19.68 per cent increase, compared to 2016 and 2017’s modest increases of 1.4 per cent and 8.12 per cent respectively.
The percentage increase in the total CSI was driven by an increase of nearly 27 per cent in non-violent crime severity index in 2018, crimes which include traffic and drug violations, and violations of Federal Statutes.
Among those crimes, Kitimat saw an increase in impaired driving violations, from 28 in 2017, to 38 in 2018.
The violent crime index, however, decreased significantly, from 41 per cent in 2017 down to nine per cent in 2018.
The violent crime severity index tracks the number of violent crimes, including homicide, attempted murder, sexual and physical assault, uttering threats, criminal harassment and forcible confinement, reported by police.
Assaults decreased from 86 in 2017 to 72 in 2018, as did breaking and entering – from 23 in 2017 to 15 in 2018.
The news came on the back of the announcement of a projected provincial RCMP budget shortfall of $10.7-million.
Kitimat RCMP acting detachment commander Sgt. Eric Black told councillors in a November council meeting that the previous two B.C. wildfire seasons had had a major impact on the provincial RCMP budget.
Black said the provincial RCMP was relocating resources throughout the province as the need arises, rolling out specialty teams and community response groups such as those that assist communities experiencing protests linked to oil and gas pipeline issues.
He said the provincial RCMP had implemented a number of belt-tightening measures to address the provincial budget shortfall. The Regional General Investigation Unit in Terrace, established to assist detachments like Kitimat with large investigations, is now down to two members.
The Kitimat RCMP detachment has a staff complement of 21. Two of the members are paid by the provincial RCMP, while 18 of the members are classified as municipal police officers, paid by the District of Kitimat, and one member classified a First Nations police officer.
The staff consists of a staff sergeant, a sergeant (operations NCO), three corporals (road supervisors), one of which is a provincially-paid position, two General Investigation Section constables and 14 General Duty Constables, one of which is a provincially-paid position.
He said the RCMP financial analysts in Prince George had predicted a shortage in the Kitimat municipal RCMP budget. As a result, the detachment had implemented cost-saving measures, including limiting overtime and cutting back substantially on training.
“Municipal actions will not be curtailed. In fact, on April 1 the municipal police side is going to actually increase by two members,” Black added.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff was quick to allay fears that the District of Kitimat would be cutting back on police services in light of the provincial budget shortfall.
“I want to be clear – if anything we have increased our staffing in anticipation of the LNG demands in our community,” said Feldhoff. “The challenge the RCMP is having is on the provincial component of the funding.”
In the 2019 budget presented to the District of Kitimat council in December 2018, the Kitimat detachment’s municipal budget for 2019 was increased from $2,547,959 to $2,612,436, an increase of 2.5 per cent.
This amounts to nearly nine per cent of the District of Kitimat’s General Operating Expenses budget of $29,533,773 that was allocated for 2019.
In 2017, the last available statistics provided by the B.C. government for detachments in towns with a population of between 5,000 and 15,000, Kitimat is listed as having a population of 7,421 with 18 members in the detachment at the time, a ratio of 412 residents for one RCMP member.
To put that into perspective, in 2017 Victoria had a ratio of 421 residents per member, while Vancouver had a ratio of 496 residents per member. The only detachment better resourced than Kitimat was Prince Rupert, which had a ratio of 298 residents per member.
The month started with news that the Gitga’at First Nation will construct and operate a new marine emergency response and research facility in Hartley Bay, at the entrance to the Douglas Channel, following on the heels of the finalization of the terms of a financial agreement between the Gitga’at First Nation and LNG Canada.
The Response and Research Facility will support marine safety, research and monitoring in Gitga’at territory, as well as the protection of the coastal environment.
The facility, which will consist of a shore-based structure, a research vessel and communications equipment, will be staffed by trained Gitga’at employees.
The facility’s staff will work in collaboration with federal and provincial agencies to provide front-line support for marine emergencies and will undertake research and monitoring programs in Gitga’at territory.
The Gitga’at First Nation will design and construct the facility and will be responsible for its ongoing operations and maintenance.
Related to the water quality in the Douglas Channel, an application to pump up to 2,490 cubic metres of wastewater a day into the Kitimat Arm was approved by Transport Canada.
The application, submitted to Transport Canada in September, was advertised in the media in October and early November.
JFJV spokesperson Rebecca Boys said the company applied to place a three-port outfall diffuser on the seafloor in the port, 30 metres below the water surface about 240 metres off the southern end of the former Methanex jetty causeway.
The project also includes running an eight-inch diameter high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipeline on the seafloor out to the outfall diffuser, as well as placing rip-rap scour protection at the shallow sections of the pipeline.
The pipeline and diffuser will be used to dispose of treated wastewater pumped from a waste treatment facility built to treat wastewater from LNG Canada’s main worker accommodation camp, Cedar Valley Lodge.
The wastewater, which will contain both treated sewage and grey water (water from kitchens, bathrooms and showers), will be treated using a treatment plant which is being purpose-built in Vancouver.
“The way the effluent is being treated on the project is standard and likely the same process the District of Kitimat follows,” said Boys. “The effluent will not adversely affect water quality and water uses. There will be no visible plume at the surface, and no odours from the treated effluent discharge.”
Not content to go out without a bang, 2019 ended the year with a bombshell, news that energy giant Chevron is looking to offload its 50 per cent stake in Kitimat LNG.
Chevron announced it was withdrawing from the project on December 10, saying in a statement that the decision is part of Chevron’s effort to optimize its global portfolio and focus on “improving returns and driving value.”
“Although Kitimat LNG is a globally competitive LNG project, the strength of Chevron’s global portfolio of investment opportunities is such that the Kitimat LNG Project will not be funded by Chevron and may be of higher value to another company.”
Skeena riding MLA Ellis Ross, official opposition critic for LNG and Resource Opportunities in the B.C. Legislature, said while proponents have pulled out of other LNG projects, Kitimat LNG’s position was unique.
“It’s unusual for major projects like this to only have two partners. Most have four or five,” said Ross.
“We’ve heard this type of announcement before and not just from this project. It’s just a matter of watching for clues and updates in the coming months.”
District of Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth said while he was surprised to hear that Chevron would be withdrawing from the project, he still believes the project is viable.
“Of course we were surprised by Chevron’s announcement, but I think the Kitimat LNG project is still a tremendous opportunity for another proponent to move forward with,” said Germuth.
He added that the District would work with Chevron and Woodside to support the transition of the project to future owners.
Haisla Nation Council (HNC) chief councillor Crystal Smith said the HNC would continue to support the project, which will be built on traditional Haisla territory, should it receive a positive final investment decision.
“Haisla Nation Council recognizes that ownership changes are common in large capital energy projects. This is not the first time this project has changed hands and we are comfortable and confident that we will build a positive, working relationship with a new proponent, should ownership change hands,” said Smith.
“Kitimat LNG was the first LNG export project to reach out to the Haisla Nation and our community supported it, in a referendum, by more than 90 percent,” said Smith.
She said despite the announcement it is “business as usual for KLNG” with work on the Bish Cove site continuing, while the HNC continues to focus on reviewing the proposed changes resulting from increasing the capacity of the project by more than 50 percent of the original design.
The beginning of 2020 heralds major changes for our communities, some positive and others not. What is certain, though, is that our communities are resilient, having been through many periods of rapid change – the shuttering of Eurocan and Methanex, major strikes, the sale of Alcan to Rio Tinto and the Kitimat Modernization Project, to name a few.
With our communities’ support, the Northern Sentinel has documented the changes and providing communities with a platform to express their struggles with that change. Our team stands refreshed and ready to tell the stories of change once again.
We wish our communities a safe and healthy new year.