First Nation, federal government sign deal for Island spill response centre

The Pacheedaht First Nation and the federal government have penned a memorandum of understanding to share management of a planned $22.5-million emergency rescue and environmental response facility in Port Renfrew.

Pacheedaht Chief Jeff Jones said the construction of such a centre has been a vision of the First Nation for many years.

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“It will help Pacheedaht exercise a greater role in protecting and managing the 112 kilometres [of] marine coastline, vast territorial waters and abundant resources,” he said in a statement.

The planned facility will provide marine search-and-rescue services and environmental response and will bolster marine safety and response in Juan de Fuca Strait.

A signing ceremony was held in Port Renfrew on Monday.

The Canadian Coast Guard and the First Nation will co-manage the facility. Discussions will be held on how the project and its management will unfold, a federal official said.

Additional information on vessels, equipment, training and jobs, expected to include Pacheedaht members, was not immediately available, the official said.

The goal is to have the facility completed by 2022.

Bernadette Jordan, minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said the aim is to work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to manage the natural environment.

“Indigenous Peoples have lived on the Pacific coast for thousands of years, and their knowledge of this environment is unparalleled,” Jordan said in a statement. “Working nation-to-nation with Pacheedaht First Nation is not only the right thing to do, it is what is best for the land, the people of this region, and the country as a whole.”

The project is part of the community response initiative for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. The Canada Energy Regulator (previously the National Energy Board) has recommended that Canada meet more than 150 conditions and 16 recommendations to help avoid and mitigate any potential impacts from the projects and in marine shipping associated with the project.

Of the $22.5-million facility cost, there will be $18.4 million in funding related to the TMX project and other monies from the federal Oceans Protection plan.

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