A rally against a proposed biofuel plant on the Semiahmoo First Nation land in South Surrey attracted hundreds of people on Sunday.
The rally took place at Peace Arch Park, which is very close to the proposed site. The biofuel facility would take organic waste and convert it to natural gas, which would then be sold to Fortis, the natural gas distributor in the Lower Mainland. It would also convert some material to compost and fertilizer.
The biofuel facility would be located adjacent to Highway 99, just north of the Peace Arch border crossing compound. It would be very close to Peace Arch Park. It would not be right next to the bay, but it would use Semiahmoo land.
The facility will be operated by Andion North America for 25 years and then turned over to SFN. It is estimated that it would employ 14 people.
Biofuel facilities are found in many places, including in Port Kells, where Surrey’s green waste is converted to fuel that runs the vehicles that collect garbage, recycling and green waste.
That project was welcomed by most citizens when it was unveiled, and like the Semiahmoo project, was partially funded by the federal government. It opened in 2018.
Concerns about air pollution from that facility are rare.
There is often some strong smells in the area, which is zoned industrial, but they emanate from the nearby transfer facility, which collects garbage and prepares it for shipping to a large dump near Cache Creek.
The SFN project is undergoing an environmental assessment by the federal government, and also must comply with air quality regulations from Metro Vancouver. The concerns over the project have come from people who live nearby – in the Douglas neighbourhood of Surrey, other parts of South Surrey and White Rock.
What surprises me about this facility is that it is proposed for property which has almost unlimited potential. The Semiahmoo lands, which are largely undeveloped, could be home to many projects. Of course, the First Nation would have to agree to any of them, and benefit financially.
However, there could be resorts which focused on nearby Semiahmoo Bay, other tourist facilities, projects which emphasized the natural landscape, such as the bay and Little Campbell River, or endless other possibilities.
Semiahmoo First Nation is located in one of the most beautiful areas of the entire Lower Mainland.
Even in the 1940s, when First Nations people were almost forgotten, SFN members opposed selling the land that was Semiahmoo Park. They only agreed to a lease that eventually expired, and SFN took the land back.
First Nation members have every right to look for economic development opportunities. It seems there are many such possibilities.
There will be great public interest in the outcome of the federal environmental assessment.
Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for Black Press Media.