Squamish residents get say on floating hotel plan for LNG project

Woodfibre LNG needs municipal approval for hotel in order to start full-scale construction

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An LNG export facility planned for Howe Sound in the southwest of Squamish is awaiting municipal approval so it can moor a floating hotel at the site.

The Woodfibre LNG project has been approved by the federal and provincial governments as well as the Squamish Nation. A wrinkle in the project timeline has appeared, however, with the District of Squamish needing to give the go-ahead to the floating hotel to accommodate workers.

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The project was approved in 2015 with workers expected to live in and around Squamish. But as the rental vacancy rate dropped in Squamish, the floating hotel idea was suggested in order to reduce the impact on the community.

This led the project owner — Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto — to contract Bridgemans Services Group to convert a cruise ship into worker housing for up to 650 persons.

Tanoto owns the Singapore-based Royal Golden Eagle Group of Companies, which owns Pacific Energy Canada, which owns 70 per cent of the Woodfibre LNG Project. The remaining 30 per cent is owned by the Canadian publicly-listed company Enbridge.

In January, the MV Isabelle arrived in Vancouver, where it received additional work at the Seaspan facility in North Vancouver. The ship is now moored in Nanaimo Harbour, awaiting a vote from the District of Squamish council on a three-year, temporary-use permit to allow the vessel to be moored on site.

On March 22, Woodfibre LNG president Christine Kennedy said misinformation had been circulated by a District of Squamish councillor stating that Woodfibre LNG had not adequately dealt with housing, and that construction workers would be taking up housing in the community.

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“These statements are untrue and they seem purposely misleading,” Kennedy said.

“Claims about workers searching for housing in Squamish are false. By regulation, those from outside Squamish and the Sea to Sky area are required to live on the floatel once it is in place and are not allowed to access rental housing in the community.

“A small number of our construction management staff will live in the community, but must live in the leased apartment building that Woodfibre LNG has maintained in Squamish for several years.

“The floatel has already been approved by provincial, federal and Squamish Nation regulators. We hope that district council will advance the (temporary permit request) quickly to enable implementation of this community-driven housing solution, putting their votes behind their desire to have the workforce accommodated outside Squamish.”

On March 26, the permit request was submitted to council but was not approved. Instead, the matter was referred to a public hearing set for April 23 to give residents their say.

The Woodfibre LNG project will use electricity to convert natural gas supplied by Fortis B.C. into liquid natural gas that will be exported by ship to overseas markets.

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Preliminary site work began in November, with full construction to commence once the floating hotel permit is received. The project is expected to be complete by 2027 and will have a 25-year life span.

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With files from Canadian Press

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