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N.W.T. First Nation changes stance, now fully supports Enbridge's pipeline repair project

The Liidlii Kue First Nation says they've been consulted and no longer have concerns about Enbridge’s pipeline replacement project that drills 100 metres underneath the Mackenzie River.

Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Gerald Antoine says they've been consulted and no longer have concerns

Enbridge plans to drill a 2,500 metre line under the Mackenzie River to replace the existing line. (Enbridge via NEB)

The chief of the Liidlii Kue First Nation says he now fully supports Enbridge's Line 21 project to replace a portion of the N.W.T. pipeline.

Chief Gerald Antoine announced at a hearing on Monday that Enbridge Pipelines Inc. and the First Nation reached two agreements — a Participation Agreement and an Environmental Management Agreement.

Enbridge shut down the pipeline in 2016 because it sits on an unstable river bank. The company then proposed to replace a 2.5-kilometre section of its Line 21 pipeline by drilling 100 metres underneath the Mackenzie River about 10 kilometres from Fort Simpson. The line runs 869 kilometres between Norman Wells, N.W.T., and Zama, Alta.

An environmental monitoring program and an environmental management committee that directly involves Dene will be put in place as a result of the agreements.

"That [will] assure us that Dene will benefit, and not be harmed by the replacement project," said Antoine in his statement to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board on Monday.

The company had said the $53-million repair is routine and not likely to negatively affect the environment or people living in the region, according to documents filed with the National Energy Board.

But back in October, the First Nation spoke up about how Enbridge was not properly consulting the First Nation.

"We're in a situation where Enbridge is saying: 'Trust us, we know best with this information and we've made the best decision for you,'" Daniel T'seleie, co-legal counsel for the Liidlii Kue First Nation (LKFN), told the National Energy Board's review panel in October.

"I disagree that Enbridge has that right to make decisions for us, for LKFN or other Dene," he said at the time.

First Nation now happy

"We are happy to now say that Enbridge has adequately consulted with us about the project," Chief Antoine said Monday.

Antoine said the First Nation's main concerns were about the environmental impacts of the project on Dene land and water, as well as how it impacts community members.

Antoine said he no longer has concerns about the project, and asked for the Mackenzie Land and Water Board to grant a timely approval of permits for the pipeline repairs.

A spokesperson for Enbridge said in an email response that the company "look[s] forward to working with the LKFN in a manner that respects and protects the land and water essential to the way of life and well-being of the Dene for present and future generations."

Corrections

  • A photo in this story incorrectly identified Jim Antoine as Gerald Antoine. It has been removed.
    Jan 12, 2018 9:37 AM CT

With files from Josh Campbell