At the last regular council meeting, Town of Gibsons (TOG) council voted to tell Ottawa it wants Liquified Natural Gas tankers banned in Howe Sound, based on concerns about safety and interrupted ferry service for the Coast. The Town of Gibsons motion tabled July 15 states, “LNG is soliciting interest to build an LNG export plant in Howe Sound, which will involve the passage of up to 40 LNG tankers annually in the Georgia Strait, which will interfere with existing marine traffic, put at risk these ecologically important and sensitive inland waters, and negatively impact upland development along this route.”
Gibsons Councillor Lee Ann Johnson noted that Gibsons has had ongoing discussions about the topic, including at regional forums where groups and authorities meet to discuss matters that can affect communities.
“Councillors have been participants in the Howe Sound Community Forum which are informal discussions,” Johnson emphasized.
She added that the key concerns about the tankers focus on the economic burden of having to reschedule ferry sailings that might coincide with tanker courses into Howe Sound, as there is a 1.5 km no-go zone around vessels carrying pressurize gasses. Other marine traffic, including recreational vessels would be required to stay miles away from the tankers as well.
These kind of disruptions will have a marked effect on the economy of the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island, Johnson opined.
“If we had to reschedule 40 ferries every year, that’s a lot of disruption for communities whose main source of transportation is the ferry,” Johnson said, adding that a large portion of Sunshine Coast residents are employed on the Lower Mainland.
And what can complicate issues is that there’s a lot of jurisdictions which govern bodies of water and adjacent communities in Howe Sound including Squamish and Coast islands.
“Almost every level of government has some piece of the action,” Johnson explained: “the province has the sea bed and the federal government looks after the salt water on top.”
There are also three regional districts and First Nations bands operating on Howe Sound’s shores. The next regional get together for the Howe Sound Community Forum is October 3.