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Liidlii Kue oppose work again

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 13/04) - The fate of winter geotechnical work proposed by Imperial Oil now rests in the hand of a federal regulatory board.

During a Dec. 2 public hearing in Fort Simpson, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB) Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Keyna Norwegian said her members remain opposed to a proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

The board was seeking input on an environmental assessment for Imperial Oil's winter geo-technical program, which the oil company has been trying to carry out for three years.

The winter project would essentially be breaking ground for the pipeline, in Norwegian's opinion.

"It's scary," she said. "There's still a lot of confusion (over) what is happening to date."

Norwegian said Imperial executives have to recognize First Nations as the rightful land owners before winning their support. She added that the Dene must be full participants in a joint review panel for the pipeline and access and impact benefits agreements would have to be negotiated and brought back to band members for approval.

Jim Hawkins, who prepares regulatory applications for Imperial Oil, replied his company does not negotiate land ownership, therefore it has not recognized First Nations as Deh Cho land owners. That matter must be resolved between the Deh Cho and the federal government, he said.

As for negotiating benefits, Imperial continues to offer to sit down to negotiate agreements, according to Dee Brandes, consultation and community affairs manager for the Mackenzie Gas Project.

Joe Acorn, technical advisor to the Dehgah Alliance Society (formerly the Dehcho Pipeline Working Group), told the MVEIRB that Wrigley has particular concerns about work proposed in the Blackwater River area while Trout Lake has misgivings over work sites around Trainor Lake.

Acorn added that the society is seeking specific economic benefits from Imperial Oil: the group wants training for local environmental monitors and expects a well-defined harvester compensation program to be in place.

Brandes responded that Imperial Oil has already made a number of location changes in consultation with the communities and will continue to work with them.

The MVEIRB convened similar meetings in Trout Lake and Wrigley in the days prior to arriving in Fort Simpson.

The file on Imperial's proposed Deh Cho geo-technical project closes on Dec. 14, after which the board is to make its decision.

What is Geo-tech?

  • Imperial Oil is proposing to collect soil samples in the Deh Cho by drilling a few hundred bore holes and digging test pits.

  • The bore holes would be 10-20 feet deep and approximately four inches in diameter.

  • Four camps would be set up: 65 workers based near Blackwater River, 65 employees near Willowlake River, 65 workers at Checkpoint and 30 people near the Trout Lake road.

  • Equipment would include bulldozers, graders, tracked backhoes, bore hole drilling rigs on tracks, tracked personnel carriers and fuel carriers, helicopters and tractor trailers.