The District of Squamish has decided not to sue CN Rail for the 2005 Cheakamus derailment, instead opting to accept a $100,000 settlement.
The district has signed a memorandum of understanding with the railway, agreeing to two $50,000 payments to help market the area as the “outdoor recreation capital of Canada.”
Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland said the district consulted with lawyers and were told they had little or no chance of winning a suit against CN.
“What we didn’t want to do was file a lawsuit, spend a lot of taxpayers’ money and find out that we had no case in the first place,” said Sutherland.
“… At best, it would have been tied up in court for a long, long time and at worst we would have lost a lot of taxpayers’ money and been no further ahead.”
Sutherland said it was a logical choice to direct the funds to tourism, because the spill had an impact on recreation in the area.
“It made a lot of sense to target the money towards tourism in general, and we may, in fact, use some or all of the money towards outdoor recreation.”
The $100,000 will go towards implementing Squamish’s Tourism Marketing Plan, promoting local history and outdoor activities.
The derailment, which occurred in August 2005, dumped 40,000 tonnes of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River, killing approximately 500,000 fish.
A report released by the Transportation Safety Board in July found improper training, faulty technology and incorrect assembly were to blame for the derailment.
At the beginning of August Environment Minister Barry Penner announced the provincial government was laying charges against CN for violating the Environmental Management and Fisheries Acts. If convicted on all five counts, CN could face a maximum fine of $3.6 million.
The Squamish Nation also filed suit against the rail company earlier this year for damage caused to their land from the derailment.
Since the accident, CN has worked with the district and other local stakeholders to restore the area, sinking over $3.25 million into recovery efforts.
“CN and the district, working closely with regulators and other stakeholders, have made great progress in restoring affected fish populations in the river,” said Kirk Carroll, CN general manager for B.C. South, in a press release issued Tuesday.
“This agreement will help the district take advantage of that work, and reinforce its positive image as a recreation destination.”
On top of the $100,000 payment to Squamish, CN will continue to support recovery efforts in the area.