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This is an updated artistic rendering of Pacific NorthWest LNG's proposed export terminal on Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert in northwestern British Columbia.

Handout/Pacific NorthWest LNG

In a rare example of aboriginal co-operation on pipeline matters, the Nisga'a Nation's governing body has signed a $6-million deal with the B.C. government to allow a pipeline to bring natural gas to Prince Rupert to feed hoped-for liquefied natural gas plants.

The pipeline route would cut through a Class "A" provincial park that the Nisga'a co-manage with the province in the Nass Valley, preserved as a memorial to the 2,000 people who perished in a volcanic eruption 250 years ago.

Nisga'a Lisims president Mitchell Stevens told reporters at a signing ceremony in Victoria his community strongly supports the development of LNG and is looking for a financial partner to build its own LNG facility. Four potential locations have been chosen within the Nisga'a lands. To date, B.C. has more than a dozen prospective LNG projects, but no final investment decisions.

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"We're not interested in a pipe that comes from the northeast and brings the resources to the coast," Mr. Stevens said. "What we are interested in is a pipe that gives us an opportunity to provide for an economic base for Nisga'a citizens."

He later acknowledged there is dissent within his community over the development – the lava beds are considered sacred – but he said the elected Nisga'a government voted in favour of the deal after an unusual legislature session in which the hereditary chiefs were asked to speak, and gave the project their blessing.

"We are no different than anyone else. We had to get a social licence, just like the rest of the province of B.C.," Mr. Stevens said.

Almost 100 kilometres of the 900-kilometre pipeline would cross the Nisga'a lands. Mr. Stevens said the route was chosen as the "least intrusive" because it will parallel an existing highway and transmission line.

The Nisga'a have already signed a deal with TransCanada Corp. on its proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project. TransCanada's pipeline would transport natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to Pacific NorthWest LNG's planned export terminal on Lelu Island through Nisga'a territory. But there is opposition outside the Nisga'a territory as well.

A group of four First Nations is opposed to Pacific NorthWest LNG's chosen location for the $11-billion terminal near Prince Rupert. The Wet'suwet'en, Gitanyow, Lake Babine and Gitxsan have voiced their opposition, but provincial Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Rustad said on Thursday he is optimistic his government will be able to persuade those communities to support the project.

The agreement is the first of what the Liberal government says will be several benefit-sharing deals with First Nations that include skills training and environmental projects.

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Legislation has been introduced to permit the Nisga'a to levy and collect property tax from non-Nisga'a citizens and companies and their installations, including LNG pipelines, on their treaty lands.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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