Some updates since the weekend:
The Hilton Centre has estimated the cost of a transition coordinator to manage the change of address at $13-$16000. I will encourage Council to cover this cost either through the Community Grants program or directly. Hopefully with the help of provincial and federal grants as well. You can see their letter sent to Council this week at the bottom of the post or here.
Tseshaht First Nation passed a resolution at their AGM supporting the name change of A.W. Neill school. A motion on the street issue did not pass.
John Alan Jack, Chair of the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District and Councillor at the Huu-ay-aht First Nation was interviewed on CBC Radio Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately, a recording is unavailable, but a couple days before he tweeted:
#iisaak is a Nuu-chah-nulth term that can be interpeted as "greater respect" & "respect with caring." It is a cornerstone of NCN tradition.
And finally, the National Association of Japanese Canadians sent a letter to the AV News in addition to citizens supporting the Reconciliation efforts.
The support for this historic bit of work seems to be growing and Port Alberni is being watched by groups all over on how it deals with this important issue.
Below you will find a document I have been working on since early December on the issue of Honouring and Renaming Indian Avenue and Neill Street. I didn’t decide to move on with it until after the last council meeting in December.
So that everyone is on the same page with the same information with this difficult conversation, please read the document and this post in full before commenting.
This document is a draft. It is only my research. There may be errors and it will change and be updated. If you see an error please let me know.
These are my personal writings. This does not represent the City of Port Alberni.
The report includes justifications, history, suggestions on alternative commemorations, costs, and implications for residents and non-residents.
This is an issue that came to me from Chris Stevenson. Below is an interview he did last week with CBC on the topic. He did a paper on A.W. Neill and we started talking about it a few months back with Trustee Rosemarie Buchanan when the school was being switched to an Elementary School.
The motion I will introduce tomorrow (the 9th) will be:
That Council for the City of Port Alberni, in the spirit of Reconciliation, work with the Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nation Councils, the Community and any affected property owners to potentially rename Neill Street.
You might notice mention of Indian Avenue has been removed. After talking with Jolleen Dick of Hupacasath I have decided to remove that at this point but I have kept it in the document since it was part of the original intent and so all of the information is there.
You will also see it says “potentially”. While I believe the renaming should proceed, no final decision will be made on the 23rd when the motion comes up for debate, only a decision on whether to move forward and start the consultation process with property owners, First Nations, the NTC and cultural groups and anyone else affected. This was also my intent from the outset.
Reconciliation is an issue that requires a commitment to calm, thoughtful discussion in order for all views to be heard and respected. I invite your constructive feedback in the comments section.
I have shared this document and post with my fellow Councillors and I will bring it to the Council meeting with the Motion on January 23rd.
What the document does not mention in large part yet is the opportunity for healing. What ceremonies could we undertake? What new memorials could we create? What new understandings could we come to as we acknowledge and work through the pain of the Indian Residential School system, Japanese Internment, and Anti-Immigrant sentiment that have deeply affected our communities?
Those are the questions I would really like to hear answered as they are the ones I think we can get to now that this conversation has begun. It will not solve the Reconciliation question overnight, but I hope it will get us a little ways there.
Please also consider the words of the others involved to this point, Chief Cynthia Dick of Tseshaht, Councillor Jolleen Dick of Hupacasath, Trustee Rosemarie Buchanan of SD70 and others in this AV News article.
Earlier this week, the Port Alberni Port Authority publically released the evaluation of operations and emissions at the Cantimber Biotech facility. The evaluation was conducted by Golder Associates, an independent consulting firm with expertise in emission measurement and controls and air quality permitting.
The report provides a thorough review of Cantimber’s operation with key findings and recommendations regarding the facility operation, emissions testing, air quality, and other regulatory considerations.
While the report outlines Cantimber’s general compliance with many of the provincial limits for emissions, there are air quality concerns identified that the City feels must be addressed before operations resume.
The City of Port Alberni’s paramount concern is for the health and welfare of the community. As such, the City is committed to working with the Port Alberni Port Authority, Golder Associates, Cantimber, the provincial health and environmental authorities, Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations, and the many regional partners to ensure the facility’s operation is safe and environmentally responsible. The City’s support of Cantimber operating in the community is contingent upon their being consistent with the high environmental standards that were committed to at the developmental stage of this venture.
Cantimber has expressed a strong commitment to fulfil the operational and emissions improvements identified in the report. The City remains confident in the opportunities to establish and grow an eco-industrial forest products cluster within the Alberni Valley as an economically and environmentally responsible component of our existing forest-based economy.
I in general agree with the City’s statement and their direction on this particularly the expectation that CanTimber operate ‘contingent upon their being consistent with the high environmental standards that were committed to’.
However, one thing the statement does not address is the water treatment and disposal issues that were identified in the report. As such, I have sent the following letter to City Staff and Council on the topic:
I think the statement is good however, I am concerned by the details in the report of disposal of the scrubbed water. What is in the water (which wasn’t part of Golder mandate)? How is it being transported (plastic containers? Then?), and where is it being disposed of? I am concerned by the potential noted in the report of that solution overflowing during strong rain events. What happens in that event? What are the consequences and actions? And finally, I am concerned about the cooling water, even though it should be “clean”, simply being sent down the drain. These all strike me as both City (sewer or waste disposal through acrd) and DFO items.
I would like to please request that these issues be brought up with DFO to see if they have any concerns and some more detail provided by Cantimber or Golder on disposal, etc.
Without these all being addressed fully it will be very hard to convince an already skeptical public.
Thanks for your continued attention to this issue.
I hope the City will take this water issue seriously and bring DFO to the table. There was never any indication from the original reports that there would be any potential harm to the Harbour from the operation but I believe the water scrubber material and the hot water discharge put that at risk. Unfortunately the whole “no emissions” idea just hasn’t held up.
It should also be said that there were positives in the report, and it was not my intent to ignore those. The particulate and other air emissions were good and well within limits. It is the NO2, Carbon Monoxide, and the potential for PAHs that were a surprise and I am hopeful that CanTimber takes those concerns seriously and addresses all 21 of the recommendations fully before restarting operations.
I have read the report on the emissions testing from engineers at Golder Associates. These are my personal views on the report. You can download the report here in PDF. It is very good. I give credit to PAPA for bringing in Golder. They have produced a comprehensive and objective report.
I was very hopeful for this facility and believed it could be a new way forward for our industry, but what I have read leads me to believe that at the very least this facility may not be viable in its current location, and at worst it may not be viable at all. They have much work to do before I would be comfortable with them restarting operations.
This report raises serious concerns on both the air and water emissions. Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and PAHs were all identified as areas of concern and the water emissions from the scrubbers and cooling equipment are also issues. The report indicates emissions modelling, ie. what we expected from the stacks and how it would behave, done for the 2015 Levalton report was “not considered to be representative of the facility”. Carbon Monoxide levels were two hundred and fifty times higher than the licensed limits which is of similar magnitude as an operation the size of Catalyst Paper.
I believe these issues will need input from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (who has not been involved to this point) and the Provincial Ministry of Environment. Had this report been provided in place of the Levalton report I personally would not have supported this operation.
It is very far from “emissions free”.
There are major actions that need to be taken by CanTimber in order to ensure this facility is safe and can be properly monitored for their workers, for the neighbourhood, and for the air and marine environment. Currently, I can’t realistically support it being operated at its waterfront Harbour location.
The Concerns and Recommendations
First, there are 21 recommendations in total. There are 11 recommendations (shaded in grey) that “should be completed prior to the facilities resumed operation”.
Some are relatively simple like installing permanent monitoring and alarm systems for temperatures and air quality. Others are much more involved like upgrading the water disposal system to be a contained system that is regularly and safely emptied.
I will go through each of the 11 immediate concerns in order of what I think is most important, though they really should be all taken together and the final recommendation #21 speaks directly to that point.
RECOMMENDATION #10, 11 and 13
….updated modelling should consider emissions of PM2.5, NO2, CO and individual VOCs including Acrolein, Acrylonitrile, Benzene and Napthalene.
…GIven the magnitude of the CO emissions, the modelling assessment should be undertaken to confirm that the level of emissions result in acceptable ambient concentrations of CO prior to the facility re-commencing operations.
Monitoring for CO at the facility and associated procedures should be developed to reduce the risk of worker exposure to CO….
These are the most serious deficiencies, and recommendations, of all of them and it has to do with the emissions from the stacks.
Table 1 provides a summary of the stack test results. A comparison is provided against the emission rates used as the basis of the dispersion modelling assessment undertaken by Levelton (Levelton 2015).
The numbers on the left hand most column are what we expected based on the modelling reports the City and PAPA were provided prior to Cantimber starting up. CanTimber then agreed to adhere to those numbers (4.15 for Nitrogen Dioxide and 2.08 for Carbon Monoxide).
The Golder engineers bolded the areas of concern in the table. Most of the emissions are well within limits but there are two, the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and the Carbon Monoxide (CO) that are beyond the limits. Nitrogen Dioxide is estimated to be double the agreed emissions and Carbon Monoxide more than 250x the agreed standard.
That level of emissions puts the small Cantimber Facility at the same general level as Catalyst Paper. Which Golder illustrates fully in the table below:
That amount of Carbon Monoxide emissions from such a small facility is shocking.
This is also concerning:
Measured stack temperatures are significantly lower than those used as the basis of the dispersion modelling (Levelton 2015). The lower temperatures will result in less thermal buoyancy, and therefore poorer dispersion of stack emissions.
Measured volumetric flow rates, and consequently stack gas velocities are lower than those used as the basis for the dispersion modelling (Levelton 2015).
You can see the flow rates and velocity in the first table above. The numbers on the far left column should be lower than the numbers on the far right. Unfortunately, they are not.
These factors together mean that all of that Carbon Monoxide is being emitted into the air and it is not dispersing very well. Golder identified it as a potential safety hazard for workers onsite. I would also be worried that it may be a hazard for neighbours including residents and WFP workers as this is a significant new source of Carbon Monoxide in the area.
I personally would never have given my support to a project with those levels of emissions in that location.
Naphthalene, a polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) was detected within both the carbonization and activation stacks. This was the only PAH compound currently included in the stack test. Based on the presence of naphthalene, stack testing of speciated PAH’s is recommended in the future.
These are potentially harmful emissions. PAHs are nasty compounds. These were also not considered a concern based on the previous reports so Golder has recommended that new assessments be done with those in mind.
It is recommended that the modelling assessment is updated for PM2.5, NO2, and CO, and additionally the modelling is used to assess the off-site concentrations of individual VOCs detected, including Acrolein, Acrylonitrile, Benzene and Napthalene.
Again, I would not have been as supportive of a project that produced these toxic chemicals and the fact the previous reports had no mention of even the possibility of some of these compounds is very disturbing.
RECOMMENDATION #6 AND #7:
“The scrubber water disposal system should be upgraded to a contained system prior to the facilities resumed operation. “
“There should be a mechanism/procedure in place to replace the scrubber water as required to maintain efficiency of the particulate removal from exhaust gases.”
This scrubber water, which is in an open-to-the air vessel where the water is collected and evaporates will contain potentially harmful emissions (tars, acids, PAHs etc) from the stack gases. In a heavy rain event, this vessel could conceivably overflow. It is imperative that this water be removed in an efficient and safe way.
“The containment may not be adequate, particularly during periods of significant rainfall. During the evaporation, any water soluble organic compounds collected by the scrubbers have the potential to be re-emitted to the atmosphere.
During the site visit, an upgrade to the scrubber water system was discussed which includes capturing scrubber sump discharges within plastic containers, and subsequent removal off site for disposal. It is Golder’s understanding that these upgrades are currently in process and will be in place prior to the re-start of operations. “
I am not convinced that removing the water scrubber discharge in ‘plastic containers’ is very efficient or reliable.
This is also potentially a fishery concern if there is a chance that the system could overflow during heavy rainfall events.
Speaking of fisheries, Recommendation #8:
Cooling water should be adequately cooled prior to discharge to surface drains.
This is *not* a recommendation that is suggested to be complete before restart. However, here is what is stated from the report during the testing:
“Cooling water discharges were identified during the facility operation. The cooling water is non-contact water that is not in direct contact with the process gases.”
The temperature of the water discharge from the carbonization process “was estimated to be 50-70 °C” and “was discharged to a surface water drain.” The temperature from the water discharge from the activation process “was estimated to be 30-40 °C” and “was discharged to a surface water drain (Photograph 1). “
This should be simply city water that is being brought into the facility for cooling purposes only and not have anything added to it so it should be safe, but Golder was not asked to test this water and to my knowledge the Department of Fisheries was not contacted to ensure any discharges into the Marine environment is safe.
In my opinion, DFO should be brought into this process to sign off on the impact to the Harbour from both a potential spill of the water scrubber effluent and from this hot water discharge. We should also hear from the Provincial Ministry of Environment on what is in the scrubber discharge and where it is being taken. This would be standard for any industrial operation like Catalyst or Western Forest Products. The City of Port Alberni may also have a responsibility to provide a sewer hookup for the facility.
Recommendation #2 and #3:
“A low temperature audible alarm is installed on both combustion chambers.”
“A datalogger is installed to record temperatures within both high temperature combustion chambers.”
The report states:
“To keep the combustion chambers temperature above 875 °C charcoal was added manually, approximately twice an hour. The timing of the charcoal addition was entirely dependent on the chamber temperature, and was therefore not added on a regular time basis (e.g., every 30 minutes). The temperature in the chamber relied on the operator visually monitoring the temperature read out, and acting to add more charcoal when the temperature decreased close to 875 °C.”
This strikes me as a surprisingly ‘hands on’ and inefficient approach. A high operating temperature is critical to ensuring emissions are kept to a minimum. This labour intensive approach makes that much more difficult. Golder recognized this as well as their Recommendation #1 : “The fuel source for the combustion chambers is changed to natural gas, and is automated.” speaks directly to that. I am a little surprised that Golder did not recommend that that change over to natural gas be done before the system is restarted because this is also a concern that was raised before both by the Air Quality Council (by the Provincial Ministry of Environment) and by the general public.
There are also Worksafe BC concerns around emissions from leaks that were detected from the carbonization equipment itself and to protect the workers in that immediate vicinity.
“During the monitoring a leak was detected near the fire door of eastern furnace #4, which was traced to the nearby syngas valve. Concentrations at the leak location were detected up to 40 ppm. A temporary seal was made to the leak at the time it was detected. Concentrations at the other syngas valves ranged from 200 ppb to 15 ppm.”
Recommendations 4 and 5 address those concerns as there were leaks detected in the equipment during the testing. They recommend regular testing be done while it is in operation to identify any leaks so they can be resolved immediately and workers are not exposed to harmful emissions and are aware of exposure limits.
A meteorological station with a datalogger and web portal access to the data is installed in the proximity of the facility.
The specification and location of the meteorological station should be approved by a suitably qualified person.
There is a serious problem with the assumptions made because the weather at the facility is not the same at the nearest reliable weather station on Alberni Elementary (run by the BC Ministry of Environment)
Given the significant difference in wind pattern between the Cantimber and elementary school station locations, the meteorological data from the elementary school location is not considered to be representative of the wind pattern at the Cantimber facility. Therefore it is recommended that a meteorological station is installed in the vicinity of the facility. This will provide information to use in the investigation of complaints and interpretation of ambient monitoring data. The specification and location of the meteorological station should be approved by a suitably qualified person.
This means that because the modelling done for dispersion of air pollutants for the 2015 report relied on the Alberni Elementary station, it would not match the real world because the wind is so different along the Harbour. (As anyone in Port Alberni would know).
So I (and the City) made a decision to support the facility based on potentially incorrect data.
This would be an excellent argument for Environment Canada to re-install a meteorological station on the Somass River which should be much more representative of the Harbour, and of the City in general.
Inclusion of a condition in the permit to avoid saltwater contact with the wood chip feedstock.
The permit should include restrictions around the source of wood chips to ensure they are not in contact with saltwater, as this could potentially result in air emissions of dioxins and furans.
This was a surprising finding as I was always under the impression that none of the wood used in the facility was going to come from saltwater booms and so there was no worry about the wood being impregnated with salt which is well known to cause harmful emissions when it is burned, especially at low temperatures. I do wonder if the simple proximity of the wood to the Harbour may be enough to have them absorb some saltwater from mist and spray in the area.
The current license requirements for quarterly stack sampling should be updated based on the results of the recommended updated dispersion model assessment. As a minimum, quarterly stack testing for PM2.5, NO2 and CO is recommend during the first year of operation.
This means that Golder believes CanTimber needs to have its license requirements updated *after* more modelling based on an updated dispersion model. This would depend on all of the previous monitoring related recommendations being followed through on first.
Golder recommends that this all be done *before* CanTimber is allowed to resume operations.
I don’t know if all of these recommendations amount to a show stopper for CanTimber but one thing is for sure, I cannot support CanTimber restarting its operations until they have at least complied with the 11 recommendations from Golder. And preferably they should have to comply with all of them.
Realistically, they may not be able to comply with these recommendations and deal with the implications and still be sited on the Harbour Waterfront.
I do not believe at this time that this facility should be operating on the City of Port Alberni waterfront.
A Comprehensive and complete report from the UBCM 2016 conference in Victoria.
7AM Tuesday – Good Morning from Victoria BC!
Like last year (UBCM 2015) and the FCM, and the AVICC, I have once again live blogged and reported on the Union of BC Municipalities conference. Enjoy!
This post was updated continuously throughout the week. The schedule was packed. Here it all is below.
I don’t have the schedule for Friday as it was only speeches and resolutions in the main hall from 8AM until the official close of the conference at 12PM.
First, the Liability Exposure of Local Government workshop. Here is the description:
Section 744 of the Local Government Act provides immunity to local governments in relation to certain nuisance actions. However, in the face of ever changing climate conditions, broader protection for local governments is needed. Comparable legislation to the British Columbia act in Alberta provides considerably expansive protection in this regard. It would be beneficial to local governments if legislative reform to Section 744 rendered it as broad – and possibly broader – than the immunity currently granted to local governments in British Columbia.
9AM Update – Municipal Liability with severe weather (climate change) and lobbying the Province to better protect Municipalities and taxpayers.
I didn’t realize this was actually going to be a climate change related workshop… but when dealing with insurance and liability I guess I should not be surprised. The message was clear that local governments, because of the legislation in BC (compared to somewhere like Alberta) are very exposed to being sued due to severe weather events they have no control over.
Reducing Liability Exposure for Local Gov.
– We are actually talking climate change liability risk
– Problem is Section 744 of Community Charter
– The $2 Billion Floods in Alberta – (from mostly sewer backups) – was largest insurance claim in Canada and mostly fell on local government. However, because of Alberta legislation, they were protected and did not have to pay out. In BC we do not have that protection.
– Local Governments in BC are sitting ducks.
Here are the main issues:
Local government has little responsibility on first two… main liability is extreme weather. We are now seeing 1-100 year events every 10 or so years. Infrastructure is often built for 1-25 year simply because municipalities can’t make stuff bigger than that for cost reasons. In Alberta, that gap is covered. We must plan for future development… paving over natural drainage ways… not making sure new development does not impact downstream. Not correcting a problem when you know about. You have to maintain. Sued for negligeance most common is Sidewalk.
Here is the section:
This will help protect from climate change, severe weather but not always, ONLY WITH BREAKDOWN OR MALFUNCTION, not capacity! (Severe flooding). Alberta has more broad protection that covers operation or non operation.
Comment: Port Alberni is not under of the BC Municipal Insurance umbrella. Perhaps we should be if it gives us more collective influence with other majority of municipalities.
This issue is going to cost many many more times more than leaky condos.
MIABC will help Local Gov implement “get out of jail free card” in new policies. It has to be in writing and approved, and does it set out reasonable achievable resources. Not “best practice” that is unaffordable or practical and realistic. Make sure you document everything! In legislation we need to change “breakdown and malfunction” to Alberta’s “operation and non-operation”. This is the only thing that needs to change so it is simple and hopefully easy but need lobbying support from affected local governments.
700-800 Municipal Insurance claims a year… usually about 12-24 right now weather/climate related. This year, forecasts say fewer days of rain, but more intense storms.
Note: if you are with MiABC you get unlimited number of basic consultations on tip line for $100/yr.
10AM Tuesday – Affordable housing and low wage crisis.
Even small communities are starting to lose young demographic because it is unaffordable in BC but smaller communities do have ability to pull disadvantaged millenials and gen X from lower mainland.
From a generational standard, no province has taken bigger hit in housing cost and low wages for younger generations. Child Care is costing more than tuition… at same time that new parents are paying historically high tuition debt.
Homes first. Tax housing wealth more to slow housing price, cut income taxes. Need more rental accommodation.
Second speaker: Mayor of Quesnel Bob Simpson
$2.4 Million annual infrastructure deficit. Tax shifting from Industry to Residents, they increased taxes 7% for 4 years. We did a town hall and did a 10% incremental cut in operations. We had to show that it was all going to infrastructure. We have not had a tax revolt and people are accepting of it because they see tangible benefit.
“We need to giveup parking in business district to create a people cemtric space”
It is about creating our own positive, progressive stories. We are investing and making great infrastructure. We are providing a Living Wage. We are in control of our google results by doing and creating the news and creating the infrastruxture that makes it real! (Liveavle, bikeability, transit, condos and small affordable desirable living places).
2PM Tuesday – Drug-Related Overdoes: A Public Health Emergency
Dr. Perry Kendall – Chief Medical Officer
We are on track for 600 overdoses… this graph below starts in the 1990s and shows how fast it has been rising (first bump was the Vancouver crisis in 90s)
These deaths (below since 2007) are the tip of the iceberg because of the naxolone kit or otherwise… you can see the impact on communities (Nanaimo in list note how numbers rise).
This outbreak is happening amongst the working class, younger (under 50) and so it is in private (in homes) not in public on street. Leads to challenges for notification and education as well as direct access to the users. The fentanyl is being cut in with other drugs “polydrug”.
Comment: A lot of heavy slides. They are doing a ton of work across all sectors of the public service to try to address the problem. It truly does sound like an emergency and crisis footing. This includes trying to get more buy-in from senior government to expand health intervention and safe injection type sites. There is a lot of political resistance to the concept still… asks attendees to advocate for that to the province. It is a health issue.
They are trying to build capacity and underpinning to try to make changes that will address the issue long term while “keeping people alive” with naloxone kits going to all emergency services including, soon, RCMP/Police. Trained 14,000 people so far and 2200 doses have been given across BC.(Those people could have all died!)
Mark Tyndall MD BC Centre for Disease Control
Drug Overdose is not a new issue. Same social issues… but what has changed? Fentanyl is the opioid “currency”. The margin of error is very small… thus deaths. Sheer number of people on opioids has grown massively in past 10-15 years.
Started with patches (cutting up the patch into strips) by prescription and then the powdered fentanyl came in 2013. This has replaced heroine and cocaine and other opioids because it is so cheap.
“Fentanyl Kills” messaging — doesn’t work with people who are addicted. They won’t stop without alternatives.
“Merits of Harm Reduction is not up for debate.” (“Much like climate change”)
“We are downloading our medical care onto people who are least trained to do it …. friends, family, others. Good that we now have BC Ambulance and Fire and RCMP are getting the kits but we need more support.
In all the years of safe injection site “InSite” in Vancouver, there has never been an overdose. Extremely effective way to prevent deaths and provide further support. (Social workers, nurses, etc)
There is no where for people to go for help to get those first steps. A 6 month Waiting List for treatment is not appropriate.
“The War on Drugs is a total failure”
Federal government is open to Harm Reduction. And Provincial government is very open to innovation.
Communities need to make it happen on the ground. They have the most power because they are so close to the issue.
Dr. Kerry Jang – Councillor / City of Vancouver
We as Municipal politicians need to take care of the police and fire to make sure they are supported. Look after first responders.
Call on the Health Authority “kill the naysayers with data”. The Health authorities will work hand in hand with communities to lead. Communities need to lead to create safe injection sites. Latest research shows keep people independent at home is most effective. We can create health teams that will go to peoples homes.
Since I wasn’t able to participate in the Emergency Coastal Response exercise I wanted to make sure to get to this special session debriefing everything. Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Yamamoto is here as well. (Second right below) ACRD Chief Administrative Officer Russel Dyson is at left.
Minister Yamamoto came up to Councillors Washington, Paulson and I and thanked us for the whole of Port Alberni and the ACRD. It was a massive effort!
The Minister “was struck” by the enormity of the task and complexity of the planning and operation. 400 different problems “injects” in the exercise to challenge the participants. The exercise involved all levels of government and also US FEMA and Washington State through “Cascadia Rising” exercise.
Had 140 people just in the Keating (Victoria) facility. Do we have the facilities (provincially and otherwise) capacity to do this?
They had an objective observer and analysis (from Alaska) done to see how the exercise went and will deliver a full “After Action” report with recommendations in coming months.Many moving parts and goals in the exercise.
Recurring theme: There was a need for more capacity from a human standpoint. People were starting to get tired and fatigued. Emergency Operations found they were looking very short term, hours and day time frame rather than looking out to Day 4, 5 or 6. Operational Communications came away realizing how important it is to involve amateur radio in all aspects from the beginning.
Russel Dyson talking about how there was some apprehension at scale of the operation but with planning it all came together. ACRD only had 20 full time staff and included City of Port Alberni and volunteers to pull it off.
Report from ACRD Staff will be coming to the ACRD Board and City of Port Alberni.
Western Forest Products, Catalyst and Port Authority participated fully and donated equipment and land to add realism to the scenarios.
It was ACRD, City, Nanaimo, Tofino, Ucluelet…. they were all thrown in with no expectation. Comment from the evaluators: “You guys worked so well together” Very proud.
Actually did paper work through HAM Radio to request resources like a Helicopter for assessment and situational awareness.
Mid way through the exercise an emergency Board meeting was held where it was suggested that 50% of the Board members, in a real case, would not have been able (either by being away or injured, or worse?) would not be able to be involved.
The big takeaway from Mr. Dyson. Practice, Practice Practice. The team building and all of the different skill sets brought together was absolutely invaluable. More of these exercises are needed across the province.
Extremely valuable and great job to the Province for bringing this forward and making it happen.
From the Questions – Looking at ways to improve communications perhaps including an EMBC specific radio channels but that requires infrastructure (that can also be affected by earthquake). Some great questions from audience on EMBC putting in resources to remote communities, on authority piece (when does local government take control)… the paperwork needed was huge and really needed to focus on that.
“We thought as planners maybe we would have staff that would walk out and be too stressed as new employees… but it did not happen. People worked together and collaborated and there were tense moments but there was great team work”.
Is there a next step, next place?
Minister comments that if a similar event was taken on in a larger urban centre it would be a very different and valuable exercise. There have been many requests from other communities to have a similar exercise.
7:30AM Wednesday – It’s early! How about Motels and Ultimatums?
It feels like an early morning. Tuesday night was a long one of receptions and networking and, honestly, wine. But this is really where you learn from others and from other stakeholders.
Case in point: Catalyst Paper. As an elected representative I have a responsibility to listen to all sides of an issue. Last night, I talked to a rep from Catalyst and his first words were something to the effect of:
“There is an Old Growth Logging moratorium resolution on the floor at UBCM. If you support it and that came to pass, Catalyst would likely shut as would the other mills in Port Alberni”.
I really don’t like ultimatums… I will leave it there.
8:00AM Wednesday – Cleaning up Motels, Inns, and Dives.
Prince George talking about how they cleaned up derelict buildings. It comes down to just doing what needs to be done after 30 years of talking about it. In 18 months 5 properties dealt with and now the community knows the Council and City are serious and “have a list you don’t want to be on”. (A Bylaw compliance list)
Make sure the process is transparent and legally supported but the community will support you and become your “eagle eyes”.
Business licenses are the method and process you can use to force compliance. If you suspend or cancel a business license at the location then they must stop and you can start to implement and require changes through worksafe, or health, or fire or safety or many other reasons.
Bylaw department takes the lead to gather evidence, inspect and outline the deficiencies so that they can be followed up on.
The suspension can be delegated to staff. The owner can then appeal to Council. Council has to deal with the appeal, have a public hearing and act on the will of the public which generally supports the issue.
Key evidence: Police callouts to the location.
If the “ground game” by Council and Staff is proper and transparent and wise, there will be no impetus for Judicial Review or challenges against the action from the motel owners or others.
Specific factors in business bylaw are helpful but most of the power comes from the statute in Community Charter. Just needs to be applied by an active and engaged Council and Staff.
Some places will shut and be “boarded up” but the hope is that the property owner does not want to keep paying taxes or the City can enforce destruction. (Which the Port Alberni has done in a number of cases).
10AM – Keynote at UBCM
Hearing from Dr. Samantha Nutt in the keynote this morning. An inspirational start that everyone needs and some simple messaging.
A shot of the table of contents of the Resolutions. You can see them all at www.ubcm.ca we will do the “A” resolutions first today.
First four resolutions below all passed very easily on downloading of DNA Analysis costs, marijuana regulation and taxation and short term accomodation (AirBNB)
11:30AM Protection of Old Growth on VI and Site C
Two main resolutions that generated important votes. First a recommendation for UBCM to send a letter to the province to halt Site C development. The resolution was in the “block” of resolutions to be considered together. Someone attempted to pull it out and debated indivdually (only those opposed to a resolution can call for them to be pulled).
That attempt was defeated and so the resolution was passed with the rest of the first B resolutions. Second, there was a resolution brought forward to Protect Old Growth on Vancouver Island.
The person in the picture is a councillor in Metchosin and a published scientist in forestry on the Island including all of the studies that have dealt with the issue.
After some debate, the motion on Old Growth passed strongly (I voted for as well). We need to shift our forest industry on the Island to a sustainable second growth industry. There is no future in cutting Old Growth and the benefits from the small amount remaining, as has been advocated by the BC Chamber of Commerce, are huge and varied and much greater than the limited, finite value of cutting them.
That was the end for the mornings major Resolutions… off to panels!
Cabinet Panel on Responsible Resource Development.
This is a Q&A session direct to Ministers. Should be fun!
Minister Coleman (Natural Gas Development) at Left
Minister Letnick (Agriculture)
Minister Polak (Environment)
Minister Thompson – (Forests and NRO)
Minister Bennett – (Energy and Mines)
Minister Rustad (Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation)
Q1 – From Powell River on Agriculture – Can municipalities trade ALR land.
A1 – Best option is to ensure the Agricultural Land Commission is involved in Official Community Plan and it is that Commission, arms length from Minister that can approve a trade or other work.
Q2 – Shawnigan Lake – Will you commit to reviewing the Professional reliance model and ensure there are no conflicts of interest with analysts being hired by company. (This is to do with the Land Contamination in their watershed!)
A2 – Minister Env. – The province monitors operations and ensures the compliance is met. The analysts are not handling compliance, they are data gathering and analysts.
Q3 -Will biomass to electricity facility shut down in Interior?
A3 – Minister Bennett There is a negotiation underway right now for the IPPs in the province for first contracts from Campbell era. The prices Hydro pays for that energy is hopefully going to go down but he does not believe that will jeopardize those facilities.
A4 – Minister Thompson – Softwood Lumber agreement is now under heavy negotiation. We would like free trade but that has never happened in the forest sector. That said they are working very hard to make that new agreement including working with Government of Canada. There will be reductions in AACs as the transition occurs from Mountain Pine Beetle and government will help with transitioning if needed.
Q5 – MMBC and zero waste
A5 – Ministry of Environment has worked hard to make improvements to MMBC. And Ministry will be working hard to get to zero waste as it is a major part of Climate plan.
Q6 – Site C – Food Security – Peace Valley could feed a million people a year.
A6 – Minister Ag – 95% of farmland in Peace will continue. Farmers affected will be compensated. High tech Farms will need electricity (??). He fully supports Site C.
I live streamed Premier Clark’s 30 minute address. The link to that is on my Facebook page.
8AM – Stretch Code : A New Tool for Better Buildings
Stretch (Step) Code is a proposed tool. Coming in the spring as part of Climate leadership plan. Building Act is now a specifically Province led. Technical requirements driven by province no longer City. Takes effect in December 2017. All new buildings Net-Zero Ready by 2032.
The purpose is to build on top of the basic building code. 4 step between now and 2032. As of Dec 2017 city will be able to require in bylaw that builders adhere to higher Steps.
They will be rolling it out over the next 12-18 months.
Voluntary incentive program – Energy Advisor ($500) and achieve Energuide 80 (which is Step 2 in plan above) they will refund portion of building fee.
(Note: my home is Energuide 77. So not quite 80. But shows it is achievable through renovations.)
Sparwood has seen very good uptake in new home building and builders do not report rise in cost.
Mentions City of Vancouver “raising the bar”. That will be useful in rest of province as builders start to learn required skills.
98% of houses since 2012 are built to Step 2.
PassivHaus is the goal/Step 4.
In smaller communities wih no Energy Advisor we may be able to have building inspectors be certified as energy advisors so they can check off that box. Note it does not apply to Manufactured Homes. Ministry is currently analyzing the cost differences.
For existing buildings there is no step code due to complexities but there is work beginning on the national level.
9AM Wednesday Official Opposition Address John Horgan
You can see the recording on my Facebook page.
10:30AM – Resolutions Day 2! Individual Debates
I will include Resolutions of particular interest or debate.
B66 Hauling Company permitting.
Trucks are supposed to require oversize or weight. This is asking province to enforce that.
B68 Train Idling reduction.
Went to electronic vote. Passed.
B69 – One Accessible vehicle in taxi services.
B71 – Extended Absence from RD Board. Boards would be able to dismiss a director and trigger a by-election after missing 4 meetings rather than have an alternate.
B74 – Allow gas taxes to be used for Fire Equipment.
B75 – Changing Police Funding model so that the shift from 30% to 70% is not all at once.
Lots of debate. Carries with amendment striking the 2nd resolved paragraph.
B76 – Social Procurement –
Amendment to take out the second Resolved (As a first step) passed. There are infrastruxture funding requirements in other jurisdictions (Ontario) that require these considerations.
B77 – Socially responsible investing. (Climate) Creating an option for communities to invest.
Long debate and very close electronic vote. Passed.
B81 – Another call to change how RCMP funding (in a different way).
Long debate and close vote. It fails.
B82 – To have Province analyze the RCMP issue.
B85 – Bylaw Enforcement fine limits be raised to $5000. (To try to cover the costs actually incurred)
B86/87/88 on pets and dangerous dog registry.
B88 (focusing more on owners)
11:00AM Resolutions continue
B91 – First Nation consultations
C and D points were removed after much debate. Passed strongly.
B95 – Funding of Libraries in rural areas.
Passes easily (province share in VIRB has gone from 25% to less than 10%)
B97 Gender Neutral Language
Long debate with honestly some terrible comments. Passed easily. (Small house now)
B98 – Transgender protection
Wednesday Afternoon – Red Cross – Weird Weather – BC Assessment.
Red Cross Disaster Management
In Fort McMurray : It was the local authority that got people out.
1929 dwellings destroyed 643 unsafe
28 days with evac order
80,000 individuals evac in 24hrs
They have a “shadow” population of 45,000. Spread all over country. Very unusual.
$50M distributed to evacuees electronically within days.
$299M raised total. $165 from donations
2015 may be the best case scenario in future, or low (cold) end of the worst.
Most flood maps in Canada average age is 1986 are obsolete due to already occurred climate change. Expect 45% more flood area.
Image shows when under three sea level rise changes, Vancouver will have up to 100% chance of need to move or deal with sea level changes due to King Tides taking over land. “1” blue line In Vancouver, adaptation, replacement of viaducts will be built above flood level.
You can’t rely on voluntary restrictions only. “If nothing is done to manage demand, if supply increases, demand will increase to manage it.” Monitoring and metering water. “Smarter metering the better”. Australia managed 10 years of drought because they had all metered usage and so could manage. Cheapest safest way to expand supply is to stop wasting water (this also applies for electricity).
BC will need to increase irrigated farm areas outside lower mainland. Some areas of BC are wasting 30-60% of water from leakage.
Friday Finally! First a Resolution.
It is a near empty room on Friday morning but there are a number of important resolutions coming forward this morning so it is really important that as many people are here as possible. Councillor Sharie Minions is pictured at front voting. It was an early start after a long week!
A motion from the floor for university and college student housing. Trying to address the rental housing crisis in Victoria and Vancouver.
A motion off the floor for Open Government at UBCM and Area Association. It needed a 60% vote in order for it to be considered. It failed.
B99 – Resolution on allowing those who take Parental Leave can return with all of the same responsibilities.
Much debate. Passed.
B100 – to acknowledge and support the Auditor General Local Government office.
B101 – Excellent Port Hardy Councillor Jessie Hemphill to task UBCM to invite all First Nations to participate in UBCM.
B102 – Prioritizing UBCM Resolution processes
B103 – Code of Conduct (to prevent sexual harassment) for future UBCM events.
Passes as amended.
Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities address and BC Minister of Communities
B107 to make it possible for government to force the extension of sewer to electoral areas without requiring consent.
Fails. (Mostly due to abrogation of electoral area rights.)
B108 – To assess professional reliance regimes (Shawnigan Lake watershed issue)
B110 – Camping on riverbeds.
B114 to review and change funding of Hospital infrastructure away from property taxes.
B122 – Pharmacare program
B127 Herring west coast ban.
B128 – Put unredeemed container deposits into parks.
After this resolution there was not enough time left to get to the many remaining resolutions. The resolutions were thus voted as a block to either be endorses or not endorsed as the resolutions committee recommended, or if no recommendation was given, referred to the UBCM executive for a decision.
That brings an end to this report. Another very tiring but very rewarding and interesting UBCM. Looking forward to next year’s event which is being held in either Vancouver or Whistler.
(This was me most of the time in the conference hall… video live streaming and taking notes, or tweeting, or updating the blog or…) lol.
Subtitle: “In defense of difficult, yet necessary, conversations and policy.”
(Updated, see P.S. And P.P.S. At the bottom)
I am about to say something controversial. (Big surprise right? :)).
The City of Vancouver’s policy on 100% use of renewable energy by residents and business in the City and an 80% reduction in GHG emissions before 2050 is proper, wise, policy. (I have a problem with their claim of using “renewable natural gas” but we’ll get to that another time)
But here’s the thing: If we all accept the climate science, and most Canadians do (“Canadians Back Bold Climate Action“), and we are serious about addressing the problem then this must happen. There is no way around it.
What is that number? That is our CO2 “budget”. That is the amount, in billions of tonnes (GigaTonnes) of CO2 humanity can emit after 2015 in order to have a good chance of limiting warming to less than 2°C. It is from the IPCC and reiterated in a report released yesterday.
The city of Vancouver is planning for there to be zero use of Natural Gas by 2050. People are very upset. People, especially folks like the Canadian Tax Payers, Federation say it costs too much money. And yet what those voices ignore is the cost of doing nothing. Not reducing our total fossil fuel usage to zero before hitting that 843 budget will have consequences that will cost taxpayers billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars. Already, we have had disasters like those in Fort MacMurray, connected to climate change, that will cost the insurance industry billions, cost government hundreds of millions just for dealing with the disasters at the time (Infrastructure repair comes later), and cost residents thousands in expenses trying to put their lives back together. The same goes for other flooding and fire disasters in Canada over the past few years. And this, with only 1ºC of warming in the world so far…
So this policy is what climate action means. In order to stop pushing our planet to an unliveable state, we must stop using fossil fuels and a gradual decline to zero before 2050 makes sense. Replacing heating appliances using Natural Gas with electricity and requiring buildings to be far more energy efficient is the low hanging fruit.
So you might ask if there are similar plans in Port Alberni. Do we have similar reduction targets? No. Should we? Honestly, yes, but we’re not there yet. Instead, we are working on policies that will help people transition even if the implied end goal is not yet spelled out.
The City of Port Alberni is working on a program to be implemented soon that will give homeowners rebates if they switch their oil (and possibly natural gas) home heating appliances (furnaces) to electric. There are similar programs in Nanaimo and other cities. There will also be rebates that will encourage making your home more energy efficient because the best way to save money isn’t to pick the cheapest fuel, it is to reduce the need for any fuel at all.
We will try to help that happen and in the process we will be starting to make the required reductions that Vancouver has been so brave as to state in full. We will all need to be more brave in the coming years, this change will be very rewarding, but undeniably difficult.
By the way, the conclusions of the report I linked to at the top before the little table…. was that the math shows us we cannot start any new fossil fuel infrastructure. None. The operations in the world today that are currently extracting coal, oil, and gas, have more than enough carbon in them to put us over the 2ºC limit (just under 1000 gigatonnes). So that makes questions about whether or not to support things like LNG, Kinder Morgan, Dakota Access, and other new infrastructure pretty moot…. the report recommends no new fossil fuel infrastructure be approved or built.
This reinforces many research papers published recently showing that 99% of unconventional (i.e.. oilsands and fracked gas) and 72% of conventional oil reserves remaining in Canada must stay in the ground. (Nature – data table 3)
There seems to be talk in the media about an incredible 70% decrease in 4 years. This is false.
The 70% by 2020 refers to new construction only, not existing buildings (renos). Vancouver are focusing on their building bylaws (because they can do that under the Vancouver Charter). They want all new construction to be 100% renewable by 2030. 90% by 2025. This is Reasonable.
Here is the report that is being referenced, it says:
“Analysis undertaken in the development of the Renewable City Strategy estimated that of all the buildings (measured by floor space not number of structures) that are anticipated by 2050:
30% would be built prior to 2010
30% would be built between 2010 and 2020
40% would be built after 2020.
If all buildings are to use only renewable energy by 2050, the sooner new buildings achieve near zero emissions, the fewer buildings there will be that require costly and challenging deep energy retrofits to achieve the target.”
The best way to make that switch isn’t shift from nat gas to electricity, it is to reduce energy usage to as close to zero as possible, and that is exactly what they have proposed to require new developments to do by adopting Passive House or alternative zero emission building standards”
from their third recommendation:
“THAT Council direct staff to build all new City-owned and Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA) projects to be Certified to the Passive House standard or alternate zero emission building standard, and use only low carbon fuel sources, in lieu of certifying to LEED Gold unless it is deemed unviable by Real Estate and Facilities Management, or VAHA respectively, in collaboration with Sustainability and report back with recommendations for a Zero Emissions Policy for New Buildings for all City-owned and VAHA building projects by 2018.”
Today was the first get together of the Community Liaison Committee for the ICF which is a committee created by the ICF to more easily provide information to its member communities without having to worry about the conflict of interest issues of the Board reporting back.
Below I have organized the report in some pictures and then answers to questions.
We first had a brief presentation at the ICF office at the Wellcox (short for Wellington/Comox) rail yard in Nanaimo.
Click for larger images.
You can see the agenda and the attendance. I believe all but one person attended including John McNabb director of the ACRD Beaver Creek area who is not listed. The hi-rail trucks were full.
Existing freight customers and shipments.
We first got a tour of the rail yard and the various transloading (where goods are moved from rail to truck or vice versa) customers in the Wellcox yard. There are five.
SVI receives a barge regularly to the Seaspan controlled barge slip at the yard (the black square in the middle of the picture below). The slip is the only public transport connection to the Island. It also receives truck trailers but that traffic will soon be moved to Duke Point which means the slip will be for the near exclusive use of Southern Rail of Vancouver Island which they see as a major plus. Their rail slip on Annacis Island connects to CN, CP, BNSF, and UP and so all points in North America.
is delivered at the white tent above. Western Aerial receives fertilizer there for forestry.
is delivered a little further in the yard. The white rail cars are carrying fly ash for the island cement industry.
is where telephone poles (on the left) are brought down from Courtenay (at great expense by special truck) and shipped to the mainland by rail (on the right) for treatment.
Is the shipment for Top Shelf feeds in Duncan (straight ahead) that is the only large shipments of grain to the Island.
PRoducts #5 and #6
are in the distance. The first is latex for the Catalyst paper mill in Port Alberni, a large customer. The second is a supply of water stored there for use by the BC Wildfire service for use in rural communities along the railway.
is propane shipped by rail to their Nanaimo depot near the Nanaimo Golf Club.
Track Maintenance and Repair 101
After the yard tour we all got into hi-rail trucks for a short journey up the Welcox spur to the main line. We passed a few potential future customers at the veneer plant in Nanaimo and a gravel pit further south.
We then stopped at a section of the mainline south of Nanaimo where 100 ties had been marked out.
A few things to notice in the image above. First, the tie bar in the far rail where you see the bolts is an example of an old style tie bar that will be replaced along the line. Every old bar has been counted. About 9000 will be replaced.
On the rail, you see red and green markings. These are not-good (red) or must-be replaced (red/green) ties. Notice the red/green tie in he picture is quite split and rotted. This is an example of how they will mark the entire line as the replacement program progresses. The tie replacement will eat up the largest amount of the $20.4M at around $11M.
Enough ties will be replaced with the $11M to be compliant with Class 3, 40mph passenger rail and 30mph freight service and allow that to continue for 10 years with regular maintenance.
You might notice the tie right in front of the red/green marked rotted tie is in very good shape. It is also not treated with creosote. This is a new yellow cedar tie. Yellow cedar ties are great and are often used near water courses so as to minimize impact from creosote on rivers and streams but unfortunately the supply of yellow cedar ties is limited because yellow cedar is in such high demand.
Every effort will be made to source ties from Vancouver Island mills (like Alberni Pacific Division) or to otherwise benefit Island businesses during the retrofit.
in case you are wondering what a $100 million investment would look like… That would easily replace every single tie and then some. (If $11M will do every 4th tie then $50M would easily replace everything.).
That amount of work is not needed for either a return of fast enough speeds for passenger service, nor for freight service.
Above is an example of what the Victoria to Courtenay line will look like after the $20.4M program is complete. The big thing after replacing the ties is installing ballast… the rail term for rock under, beside and over the tracks. This improves the drainage and the stability of the track (which also improves the ride comfort) and the process used will also realign and position the rails so they are where they need to be.
56,000 tonnes of ballast will be used costing around $2 Million. This rock will come from Island quarries.
Questions, lots of questions.
That was the end of the hands on stuff.. we then went back to the Nanaimo train station for a lunch meeting where we had more presentations and Q/A.
I will include questions I was given before this meeting and the answers I got or gleaned throughout the day.
Transport Canada regulations and upgrades and changes to rail crossings.
SVI did a presentation on the implications of the new rail crossing regulations on the Island Railway.
The upshot is that the process for the federal railways (CP/CN) is going to happen first and has not yet occurred.
They do not know yet how these federal regulations will filter down for the provincial railways like SVI/SRY. However, they estimate that about 85% of the more than 200 crossings between Victoria and Courtenay already meet the new standards. 50% of the remaining non-compliant crossings are municipal responsibility and are pretty evenly distributed along the railway. This applies to between Victoria and Courtenay.
Once they know what the provincial requirements will be and whether there will be any grandfathering then they will do a full assessment of the crossings but in the meantime any crossing work that they do they always make sure it meets the new standards. They have also done crossings on the Island where they brought the crossing to the minimum and then put plans to bring it to a higher stanadrd once infrastructure monies are released.
The ICF now has a general policy of no net-new crossings. They have strict requirements for requestors to meet if they want a new crossing. They managed to resolve concerns in Langford by upgrading one crossing and closing another. Since costs for a crossing can start around $750,000, the ICF is keen to keep those costs down and new crossings to a minimum.
The ICF has over 1000 contracts and agreements over the entire line that they manage.
1. What’s the current status of the First Nations Snaw-naw-as legal action (Nanoose).
The ICF and Snaw-naw-as are currently in delicate talks for a negotiated settlement. Because the talks are ongoing Mr. Bruce did not want to give a timeline or any other indication but he did say communications have been had and talks are good but sensitive so no more details can be provided right now. Judith Sayers also related that there are other options to pursue if talks failed like pressing the single issue of the definition of the railway being inactive which they believe very strongly is illegitimate. But the first option is of course a negotiated settlement beneficial for all parties and sooner rather than later.
2. Has there been any movement on the part of the Federal Government regarding its commitment to provide $7.5 million?
Nope. Not without movement of Snaw-naw-as lawsuit.
3. What is the current status of municipal and regional district commitment toward the retention of the railroad as a viable economic entity?
I think as one could see from the representation at the meeting, which was from most of the municipalities and all the RDs there is still good interest and commitment and want to make it work and seek viable business as well as social plans for its use. Reps presented included those from recent sources of some skepticism including Parksville and Langford.
4. What is the current amount of freight using the railroad? What part of the railroad is currently being used? What is the economic value of this freight?
You can see the current products and customers at the start of this post. Most are transloads within the Wellcox yard. One direct rail customer remains in Nanaimo at Superior Propane. And that is the remaining part of the railway that is running a few times a week through Nanaimo.
I honestly forgot to ask about the value for those existing customers. Will do so.
There was also a lot of talk about partnerships and possibilities for traffic on the Port Alberni subdivision including Catalyst but also more broad shipping of containers and goods from the West coast through to the rest of North America through Nanaimo and the barge slip. SVI said they continue in discussions with both ports.
Southern Rail employees also made it clear that they and the Washington Group including the owner Mr. Washington have taken a very long term view to their holdings. They see a lot of growth potential for the railway due to a whole host of factors. That is why they have stayed even though the ICF has struggled to secure infrastructure funding. They are not making money on the operation currently. When the VIA service was still running they employed 26 people. They now employ around half that.
Once that funding is secured there will also be a new agreement between the ICF and SVI where the SVI will pay the ICF fees as operator of the track that will go towards its capital maintenance and administration. This agreement is under negotiation now and should be ready soon.
5. Is there more that the ICF needs municipalities such as ours to do with respect to working toward long-term viability of this railroad?
From the discussions during the meeting it appears the most supportive thing we can do is keep advocating for the railway at senior government level and also at the public level wi factual information and be sure to include the railroad in all long term social and transportation planning. We had a good chat about the use of Development Cost Charges as a way to push improvements to the line when new developments are proposed adjacent to it.
SVI also made it clear that their own thinking and that of many railways has changed a lot when it comes to the use of a railway corridor by trails. In previous eras the whole right of way was considered off limits for safety and development reasons. Now, they realize that having a trail right beside the tracks actually improves safety because it gives people a much better option than walking in the tracks and it also increases the profile and ultimate support for the railway. So they now enthusiastically support the building of the rail trail system. It also provides funding for things like new and better rail crossing hardware, so all transportation users win.
6. When will Port Alberni be involved and receive some benefit and what is its state?
As I already mentioned, SVI and the ICF continues in discussions with the Port Alberni and Nanaimo Port Authorities looking at opportunities that could arise and bring freight to that corridor. They do believe strongly that a customer like Catalyst would have much cheaper transportation costs in the current transport framework if they went fully to rail. They are already a customer for SVI as the latex for the paper making process is delivered by rail to the Wellcox yard in Nanaimo and then transloaded to truck for Port Alberni. Shipments come in every week.
There has not been a very thorough assessment of the ties and bridges yet done on the Alberni sub but the general feeling based on the experience of the people at SVI (the roadmaster has 38 years) who also worked at CPR and RailAmerica before they left is that the Alberni sub will likely be in better shape as a whole than the Victoria-Courtenay line even though it has sat dormant for so long because the majority of the limited maintenance that CPR and RailAmerica did do was on the 38mile Alberni subdivision. However, the bridge decks need more regular maintenance so since that has not been done, the bridges will require an assessment and work to make sure they are good to go again. Structurally the bridges should not have any problems since they have not been under any load in the past 10 years.
I got the impression that once the infrastructure monies were in place and SVI was secure for that 10 year commitment, that they would turn their attention more fully to the Alberni subdivision for both freight customers and tourism in connection with the Alberni Pacific Railway.
7. “IF the Fed’s position is that the funding is not forthcoming until the railway is running. We have an impossible situation on our hands…. is this scenario 100% accurate?”
No. The feds current position is the money will be released once the Snaw-naw-as lawsuit has come to a conclusion that they feel comfortable with.
8. In light of the fact that no Federal money is forthcoming, as difficult as the situation is, what does the ICF plan to do about this?
Since the feds are not providing their funding and the whole $20M package rest on that, the ICF and SVI is currently pursuing two interim plans that they believe could be done even without the infrastructure monies.
#1: is the Excursion train for cruise ships at the Nanaimo Port Authority. This was demonstrated in April this year and the train is ready to go. They have a business plan and believe the economic impact to the region would be around $20 Million a year.
The train would depart the SVI yard (which is next door to the cruise ship terminal) and head to Chemainus for part of the day. Come back to the Nanaimo train station for food and enjoying the Nanaimo uptown area and then back to the terminal. They see this starting as soon as next cruise season.
Once the infrastruxture monies are in place then the excursions could also include bringing people to events all over the Island not necessarily tied to cruise ship visits but the public in general.
#2: There is a very interesting plan being worked on where the SVI and ICF would work with BC Transit to provide a pilot commuter service between Langford and Victoria during the McKenzie interchange construction period. They are currently looking at suitable rail stock. They feel the tracks could currently support 20 minute service between Langford and Vic West. They say that BC Transit has indicated a willingness to shift or even change their bus routes or timings so that they met up with the train more smoothly.
I really hope to see this pilot come to fruition. It would be a major boost.
Both of these initiatives could happen without the $20M in funding.
9. Would they reconsider their “all or nothing” approach to getting the line repaired and renegotiate funding deals still on the table to at least get part of the line repaired and operational? Even the feds might consider funding if the plan for repairs doesn’t go as far as Nanoose.
I believe the answer to #8 covers this with the addition that SVI feels very strongly that the $20M will absolutely ensure the entire rail line from Victoria to Courtenay will be able to meet Class 3, 40mph passenger and 30mph freight standards. The ICF board feels very strongly that the whole rail line cannot be considered abandoned due to a few years of inactivity as there is still activity on the line including maintenance as well as there being a specific definition to deactivating a railway that the Island Railway does not meet. Their intent remains focused on the whole railway even while they pursue small opportunities on some portions while they work on resolving the legal case.
10. An estimate of the timeline for the Nanoose lawsuit would be nice to have too.
They were unwilling to give a timeline because the negotiations are ongoing and sensitive.
11. I’d tell them to immediately re start freight service to Top Shelf and the pole shippers, even if they have to run at a walking pace the public needs to see an active railway.
They can only serve customers that they can get the train to within the 12 hour working day. Otherwise, due to transportation regulations, they have to change crews. That is the main reason why both passenger and freight service has shut or been reduced to just Nanaimo. At current operating speeds the train can’t get to the customers in a reasonable time, so this option isn’t viable.
12. I think it needs to be made clear that they need to have some sort of forward movement related to rail even if they need to create it themselves.
It does appear tey feel the same way and is why they are pursuing the two oportunities mentioned above and they say they are continuing to work on business plans that can stand on their own.
13. Another question. Is SVI / Washington Group willing to step in and front this 15 million to stop the line from being lost forever?
I honestly didn’t ask. However they are putting in their own resources to make the Chemainus and Victoria commuter pilot a possibility.
14. Could you ask the ICF to host a public forum in Port Alberni to discuss the future of the E&N Railway.
The ICF reps made it pretty clear they realize their public outreach hasn’t been up to par. They hope these liaison meetings will help and I think they would be open to hosting an information session in Alberni. I want to be work on this with them.