After nearly 18 months of trust-building talks and engagement between representatives from the Nisga’a Lisims Government and TransCanada, the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (PRGT) project has taken an important step forward thanks to a Benefits Agreement.
Last week, members of the project team joined the Nisga’a Nation at a signing ceremony in British Columbia (B.C.) that will allow 85 kilometres of the proposed natural gas pipeline to run through Nisga’a Lands. As well, the agreement will allow another 12 km of the pipeline to run through the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park.
“I think other First Nations are going to look to this agreement as a concrete example of what can be done between a company like TransCanada and First Nations,” said John Dunn, vice-president of PRGT. “I think it really represents how TransCanada is embracing the challenges and the opportunities for First Nations.”
The proposed route minimizes overall environmental impacts and helps TransCanada avoid sensitive areas that have been identified by the Nisga’a as having special significance to their nation. The Benefits Agreement reflects the respect that TransCanada and our project partners have for the Nisga’a people, and demonstrates how we were able to work together to reach an agreement that benefits the Nisga’a, PRGT, British Columbians and an increasingly important Canadian industry.
First Nations are going to look to this agreement as a concrete example of what can be done between a company like TransCanada and First Nations
“It’s a huge milestone,” said Nisga’a president Mitch Stevens. “The Nisga’a nation has become an active player in the LNG industry in B.C.
“Allowing the modification of protected land is never easy, but it strikes a balance between respecting our Treaty interests and encouraging economic development for Nisga’a citizens.”
“The agreement is an important milestone for us as it reflects our commitment to engage with the Nisga’a people in a meaningful way and provide fair compensation for the easements and associated impacts during construction,” said Dean Patry, President, PRGT. “We strongly believe that ongoing collaboration is the only way to build and keep a positive relationship as we move this project forward.”
In addition, the B.C. government has introduced legislation to modify the park boundaries to allow the pipeline to cross through the Memorial Park. The province and Nisga’a Nation jointly manage the park, and any alteration to the boundaries required the consent of the Nation. If approved, the legislation would confirm the removal of 63.5 hectares of land from the park.
The proposed pipeline route would traverse the park for about 12 km, following Highway 113 for most of its length through the park. By following the highway, the proposed route would reduce the amount of land disturbance resulting from construction of the project and reduce the impact on the environment.
“It is important to us that the Nisga’a people are involved in all aspects of our project, so for the past 18 months we have worked closely with them to find the best route through their land,” Dunn noted. “At the same time, we wanted to ensure that substantial financial and other benefits accrued to Nisga’a families, their community and future generations.
“With their help, we have done that. The negotiations have been lengthy but have, in the end, produced an agreement that all can be proud of – one that is collaborative, productive and creates a legacy for the future.”
The amendment will only take effect once regulatory approvals are in place, including PRGT’s Environmental Assessment Certificate which is expected to be approved in December. The B.C. legislature must also consider and approve a motion to amend the description of the park in the Nisga’a Final Agreement next spring.
“This is largely just the beginning,” Patry told Nisga’a leaders. “TransCanada and PRGT intend to build on the goodwill that we’ve established in getting to this point.
“You have our commitment that as we bring our project to your community we’ll ensure that the Nisga’a continue to have a strong voice.”