Walpole Island Makes Final Decision On Natural Gas

Walpole Island band council discussing the natural gas expansion at the library. August 10, 2016. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

Walpole Island Band Council has announced that Union Gas will proceed with phase one in the natural gas expansion.

On Wednesday night, council members met with a few community members to get answers to their questions from Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Union Gas’ Manager of Economic Development for First Nation Metis Affairs John Bonin was there to answer those questions. During the meeting, several residents raised concerns around the possibility of combustion and pollution.

Bonin says the flammability of natural gas is small compared to propane, which is how many residents are getting their heat right now.

In regards to the environment, Bonin says natural gas is a better fossil fuel than propane or gasoline.

“Natural gas is probably the least problematic to the environment,” says Bonin, adding the latest technology will be installed in peoples homes. “They [residents] are going to get the maximum efficiency of the fuel, which then reduces the impact to the environment because you’re only using the fuels that you necessarily have to.”

Although questions were answered, there were obvious concerns among community members, including those on the council. Some became emotional when speaking, but agreed that the cost of pulling out of the project could be upwards of $1-million.

In the end, band council laid out a plan to ensure the safety of the community with regards to the project by having a mandatory inspection done with a report filed to council by Oct. 25, 2016. As long as they meet that requirement, Union Gas has been approved to start installing plastic gas lines immediately.

Bonin says construction will most likely begin on August 15, 2016. He says phase one will take approximately two months to complete, with the gas line running from Tecumseh Rd. to the water treatment plant.

“What we’ll do is we’ll build out over time,” says Bonin. “We’ll work with the community planners and say ‘where is your next phase? Where do you see your growth?'”

Bonin says it’s more cost-effective to complete the project in phases rather than doing it all at once.

“In the past, we’ve been instructed to do the entire island, but we just can’t — the costs are just exorbitant ,” says Bonin.

He says doing it in phases will give them time to apply for more funding from upper levels of government.