Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit report – 2017 – Updating Wed/Thurs

I am here for the VIEA Summit 2017 on behalf of Council.  I’ll be doing a report like I have done for UBCM.  It is just a two day conference with just three or four sessions that I’ll be able to attend but I have always found it to be very valuable.  Below is my schedule:

It is now 3:30PM and I’ve already had a number of great conversations with folks, from a solar installer in Nanaimo, to Sheila Malcolmsen NDP MP for Nanaimo about derelict vessels and a rep from the Coastal Community Credit Union about community funding of local agriculture!

First session I attended was on Trade and Transportation.

Here are my notes:

Keynote – Dan Tisch

Mr. Tisch spoke about the fake news phenomenon and how to manage communications with customers and clients and constituents in that new world.

He emphasized the need to create trust and how the (social) values of an organization has become extremely important to their overall reputation and success.

Openness, willingness to listen, and willingness to take and maintain principled stands will lead to success for the organization as a whole.  This is definitely something that applies to Cities as well.


VIEA Trade and Transportation Session

Short Sea Shipping –

Peter Amott – Pacific Basin

They moved log shipping (export) from Fraser port to Nanaimo because of shipping costs, delays, etc at Lower Mainland. Realized major volume increase in Nanaimo, 60 jobs.

Tabare Dominquez – DP World – Major Container Shipping (10% of world shipping). Only lift on/off (no dreyage, no trucking) on Vancouver Island for import/export to Asia.

Adam Cook – CN Rail

“Truck like service at the cost of rail” Partners with Southern Rail of VI at Annacis Island to Welcox Seaspan – BC Ferries – DP World – Steamship Lines

Alison Boulton Small Business BC – Export Navigator Pilot (also in Port Alberni through Community Futures). Facilitates communication with exporters. Export Advisor in each community…

…… QUESTIONS ….

To DP World —

Infrastructure is a significant constraint. It is fragmented.  It would be good to concentrate volume. We are ready to invest if there is more volume.

Q: Nanaimo/Alberni or Prince Rupert is place for expansion if Vancouver is maxed?
A: vancouver capacity is tight. Rupert and Island do not compete.  He sees opportunity for direct calls to the Island.

 


Renewable Energy Session

EcoSmartsun.com

Solar energy installation in the world is currently at “one Site C per month”. In 10 years, world will install 1 Terawatt per year. In US, grid parity has been achieved (solar is as cheap as coal or gas) in 27 states.

Price for utility solar is now $1 per watt. Residential in US is about $2 per watt (installed). Resource on Vancouver Island is good in SE, plus Port Alberni and Comox Valley.  Maps available here.

Gave an example of Sooke first Nation for net metering (which is similar in payback to WCGH installation)

The cost needs to be below 11c/kWH to beat BC Hydro and achieve a payback.  The grah below shows the potential.  2 axis refers to the solar panels being able to track the sun horizontally and vertically.  Most installs, like WCGH are fixed (blue dots).

Nanaimo, Tofino and Comox are listed and are indicated to be just above the threshold. Port Alberni should be as well.

Renewable Natural Gas – Fortis BC

“Carbon Neutral option”. “Biogas” is injected into the conventional natural gas stream.

Take gas from landfills, farms. 200,000 GJ of NG in 2017. City of Surrey is doing a biofuel plant in 2018 that will take organics.  Will provide 120,000GJ. City of Surrey uses CNG for their garbage trucks, will potentially use RNG for their trucks will reduce their carbon footprint.

Percentage RNG – is currently 0.25% of installed capacity of traditional gas. Fortis can move up 5% or 9 petajoules per year to RNG. (How likely is this??)

VIU Allan Cumbers -Geo Exchange utilizing old Mine shafts

Water is 12°C year round.  Will be used for multiple buildings on a 3 loop system for both heating and cooling. Health and Sciences centre (being built now) will be first building.  Then Gathering Place and Building 205. Then HSC 2.  If pilot project is successful should be able to expand district system to all buildings where it makes sense to retrofit for geo-exchange.

Expect to save 320 tonnes of CO2 on first building on Phase 1, payback is 18 years.


We will be hearing from the Premier at dinner tonight. He is addressing us by video link from Victoria (due to needing to be in the Legislature for votes in the house).  Will report back tonight or tomorrow.


Thursday morning.

We started with a breakfast and keynote focusing on Earthquake preparedness and risk management and then that continued into the first session of the morning.  Here are notes from that:

  • At LA International Airport they focused on what was needed to operate. Only two things… runways and communications not buildings.  So they focused on hardening those.
  • Nothing in BC is designed to survive mega earthquake

  • Japan earthquake. Nuke damage was done by tsunami, not earthquake. The company built a 7m wall when data said it should have been 15m. Has cost Japan $1 Trillion.
  • Another nuke plant, Onagawa… undamaged. Had a 15m wall. The ground dropped in earthquake (much closer to epicnter) by 1m. Tsunami was 13.5m.  Largely undamaged and safe.

  • The risk in Vancouver Island is very high.. as high as any japan, mexico, just less frequent. Studies are often too academic.  Frequency is almost irrelevant. Focus on simple study of elevation and practical steps to harden buildings. For houses… keep them on their foundations. Bolt them down.

BC Code should be closer to Chile and California, we need to compare Canada and other codes to learn from their experience.

  • Municipalities – do a strategic risk – find the most critical pieces.
  • The building code is not always the end all be all… building code is for life saving, not business interruption. Low bidders may be life saving minimum code only… higher cost, possible business interruption which is key.

For mitigating Tsunami. Really can only build a wall (backfilled with parkland) direct the water away from downtown…. or long term plan to move people/business out of flood zone.

Film and TV Session

BC is the 3rd largest film production in North America, biggest in Canada. #1 for visual effects in the world

$2.6 Billion in production this year. $1 Billion in wages. $23 Million in wages on the Island. 50 productions on the Island, 250 filming days. Chesapeake Shores spent $5M alone. Streaming services (Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Google) will add $25 Billion to global production business.

32,000sqft of stage space in Parksville. 3-4 Million sqft of stage space in BC.  Why B.C.? -> locations. Every possible type. Episodic TV is now main source of revenue in BC.

There is no Commercial space in lower mainland. 1% vacancy. Film Commissions cannot charge fees… so are left to ask for community grants to help fund their activities.

For Film Studio space you need high ceilings,  30-40ft. Clear span no pillars. Purpose built is usually best though small productions can use smaller spaces, but are unlikely to commit long term.

Parksville is going out on a limb. Because it is a location spot, not studio.  There are numerous people on the Island and the training is key.  Need more infrastructure in terms of rentals for video and lighting and audio.  Usually if a space is built, and a long term contract found, then the rental infrastructure companies come.

Tofino was great to shoot but no hotels… so used Best Western in Port Alberni for shoots for a commercial.  Major production facilities requires 5 star hotel for the actors. So only Victoria and Vancouver currently. However, small scale commercials or TV could use production space on an interim basis.

X-Men spent $40,000 just on ferries.

Biggest takeaway is for communities to always be welcoming, not to lie or gloss over locations, and to roll with the punches.  TV Industry is extremely fast paced, last minute, and unconventional.  They respond to places that can meet their idiosyncrasies with a smile.

That’s it! It was a very quick, but very good conference.  Lots of things to take away and learn from. I’ve already sent a number of emails to a bunch of people following up about it.

 

My (oh my!) Mini Split Heat Pump Savings! They could be yours? :)

I just received confirmation that BC Hydro has received (by email) my application for their $800 Rebate for mini-split heat pump installs. Woot! Hopefully the cheque comes back soon. 🙂
(note the rebate is only available for mini-split not traditional heat pumps)
I could only apply for the Hydro rebate (there are a bunch!) because I got rid of my oil furnace 10 years ago when we moved into our home, but if you upgrade from an oil furnace you can apply for an extra $500 rebate from the City of Port Alberni!
The total cost was $8099.75 for the heat pump plus $163.67 for the electrical work so $8263.42 total.
It is a Fujitsu variable speed heat pump with one outdoor unit (pictured) and two indoor units.  AHRI Number 6998277.  Here is the system’s AHRI certificate.
 
I am super happy with the installation and the comfort level of the system compared to our electric baseboards. (or… way back when… the noisy, smelly, expensive and inefficient oil furnace!) We keep the house at a steady 20C.
The two indoor units, one larger one on the main floor and a smaller one in the basement have no trouble keeping the house (2500sqft, built 1940, EnerGuide rating 64+) warm. And both they and the outside unit are basically silent from inside the house!

We are also in the middle of replacing a roof/ceiling in our 2nd floor bathroom which means there is no insulation up there so lots of extra heat loss temporarily. (It’s chilly in there at night!).  Once that is insulated again I expect our savings to increase.

We turn the breakers off on our baseboard heaters through the summer and most of them have remained off except our two upstairs bedrooms, but those are turned down to 18C and haven’t come on yet, even with the bathroom work. 

By The Numbers

I ran some numbers comparing this time period (Oct 6-22) in 2015 and in 2016 and comparing, thanks to BC Hydro tracking average temperatures, with days of similar temperature.

I grouped days by their temperature and by year and then got an average temperature and KWh usage for that temperature for each year.

2016 is the comparable year: Average consumption since installing the system Oct 6 has been about 62% of last year: a range of between 48% and 74% of last year in kilowatt hours per day.
I used groups of temperature days at 8C, 9C, 10C, 11.5C, 12C and 12.5C… a total of about 26 days of comparison between the two years.  So differences in daily weather patterns are minimized.
 
If I am super conservative and take the low end savings, I get 25% off of last year’s power usage, that would be a saving on my November 2016 bill of 636kWh… all on the top tier of 12.43c/kWh which would have amounted to a savings of $79.08 on my November 2016 bill.  
If I go on the top end of the savings calculated I go as high as a 50% reduction in power usage, that would get me to 1272.5kWh less usage compared to last November’s bill which is within Tier 1. I would have saved $154.79 on that bill.

Last year was, by far, our most expensive and consumption rich year ever since moving into the house.  A combination of a very cold winter, and a family that is growing up and using more heat (kids having showers!) and finishing the basement, etc etc.

We use electricity exclusively for our energy/heating needs.  We paid a total BC Hydro bill last year between May 2016 and May 2017 of $2724.32.

A 25% savings on that would be:

$681.08

A 50% savings on that would be:

$1362.16

per year.

Subtracting the $800 rebate, the cost of the Heat Pump would be paid for in 5 to 11 years.
I suspect that the savings will be somewhere in the middle of that range on a percentage basis, but it is of course difficult, if not impossible, to predict the monetary savings given annual weather and hydro rate variables.  It does seem certain that hydro rates will rise, and so with them, savings. A 5-10 year payoff seems quite likely and I’m OK with that. 🙂

Time to Investigate, Improve and Augment Aerial Fire Fighting. Commit to the Martin Mars.

This is a followup to BC Wildfire Tanker Cost FOI — The Devil is in the -redacted- Details.  Download the full FOI Release here: Reconsideration FOI (PDF) Download the Excel Spreadsheet here: XLS file or PDF file

Do the poll on the side or leave a comment!
CHALLENGE #1:

Will the parties and subsequent new Provincial Government, commit to re-evaluating the effectiveness of its FIRE FIGHTING STRATEGY and USE OF AERIAL RESOURCES?  Are we attacking fires effectively in order to keep overall costs down?  Does the current ‘let it burn’ strategy still apply with new and extreme fire behaviour? Should we implement ‘no-go-zones’ in regions near population centres with heightened surveillance and much improved initial-attack response times in order to keep uncontrolled burning to an absolute minimum?  Have we implemented the recommendations of the Commissioners report produced after the Kelowna Fires?

CHALLENGE #2:

Will the New Provincial Government, re-evalutate its tendering process, make long term firefighting contracts open and public and ban the receipt of donations from prospective firefighting companies as well as impose limits on how government and industry professionals and move between sectors that would avoid potential conflicts of interest.

CHALLENGE #3:

Will the New Provincial Government, invest in the upgrade of both Martin Mars aircraft to modern turbine engines to reduce fuel, maintenance, and positioning costs and ensure these aircraft are in the provincial arsenal for the forseeable future and further, create lake bases across the province for all amphibious and flying boat aircraft to use in times of need as inevitable fire fighting emergencies will continue to increase as climate change impacts our province?

In the words below I submit the information that I believe supports implementing these initiatives.

The Government Fact Sheet Debunked by Government Information.

As announced by Airspray on their Facebook page on Sunday, Monday April 24 marks the start of the 2017 Fire Season.  At this time in 2016, I had already been in contact with the Ministry for a request for information on contracts and flight and fuel costs.  The full information was initially redacted and, after a complaint to the Commissioner, was not released for 6 months. In January I finally got the email. It has taken me this long to slog through the numbers and create a report.

So here is a little reach back in order to tie up those loose ends.  In summer 2014, when fires raged and controversy peaked on the absence of the Martin Mars aircraft including a 19,000 signature petition. The Government released a “Fact Sheet“. It was thoroughly debunked with available information.

However, some questions lingered due especially to a lack of full cost information. That was the purpose of the FOI and new facts released by the Ministry have helped clear things up.

The Ministry claimed “four new fire bosses cost $2.5 Million per fire season” plus hourly rates.  The FOI reported cost for 2015 was $2.1 Million excluding the birddog and a total of $3.3 Million including flight and fuel costs for 600 hours of work.  The Martin Mars cost $450,000 on standby for 30 days and another $456,000 for flight and fuel.

Fuel costs are estimates as only average fuel consumption numbers were provided by the Ministry.  According to my discussions with the Ministry, actual billed fuel costs seem to be tracked nearly manually and are not coalesced electronically. This would have required a massive cost in time and effort to bring together that I could not afford or justify.

Why are fuel costs, surely the cost most susceptible to extreme fluctuation, not tracked more comprehensively and transparently?

Hourly flight rates between the various types of aircraft turn out to be very similar.  2015 rates, excluding fuel, are around $6000-$6500 for Martin Mars and Air Boss Groups, bird dogs are included, and $4000-4500 for CV580 or L188 Air Tankers.

Actual fuel consumption rates are also very comparable between flight groups.  A pack of 4 Airboss aircraft have an average fuel consumption of 1400 Litres per Hour (350 each), slightly less for the wheeled types.  The workhorse CV580 and L188 fire retardant air tankers use between 1400 and 2800 Litres per hour respectively.  And the biggest aircraft, Martin Mars, consumes 2850 Litres per hour.

Perhaps the most emotional topic brought forward during the debate was age.  The FOI request revealed not only the age of all of the aircraft in the provincial arsenal, but more importantly for aircraft, the flight hours.

The AirBoss aircraft are essentially new.  The oldest planes were built in the 1990s but most were built in this century.  However, the veteran aircraft in the arsenal are the CV580 and L188 Electra aircraft.  These aircraft are between 40 and 65 years old and yet log hundreds of hours a year from bases around the province.  Their airframe hours (reported in 2010) range from 14,000 to 24,000 for the Airspray L188s and 52 – 81,000 hours for the ConAir L188 and CV580s.  The Martin Mars aircraft, according to information provided to me by the company, are as of 2017 at exactly 21,326 hours and 23,497 hours for the Philippine and Hawaii Mars aircraft respectively.  For the Hawaii Mars, the aircraft used last in 2015, just 3,459 of those hours were since conversion to Fire Bombing in 1964.

The biggest challenge for the Martin Mars is not age or ability, it is maintenance of its engines and the cost and availability of the “AVGas” fuel needed for the piston engines compared to “Jet A/B” used by turbo-prop aircraft.

The cost to replace the piston engines with fuel efficient and more powerful turbo-props have been suggested to be in the $10-$30 Million per plane.  Would that one-time cost be worth it if the planes could give us 5000-10,000 more hours each of forest fire fighting time over the next 40 years?  Given the changes in weather that we can expect in that same time, I believe so.

CONTRACTS FOR LIFE

Away from the technical details, the contracts themselves should really be a cause for concern. They are invariably long term, and rarely changing… demonstrated in the excerpt below:

Last Line of the 2008 annual modification with Airspray. Document shows it was reused from Year 2000 contract.

Agreements are 7-10 years with modifications each fire season to specify location, dates, and incremental increases in costs if they are different from the template.  The process has essentially gone unchanged, and unchallenged, for probably 20 years if not longer.  And yet, the public does not have access to these contracts.  They are not overly complex. And their cost should not be a state secret.  We already know the bottomline numbers for the cost of wildfire firefighting in British Columbia.  The public deserves to know more detail.

The call for proposals for the 2007 Air Tanker Service contract above is still on the website and shown below.Note that Jeff Berry, the Provincial Air Tanker Manager in 2007, is now Vice President at ConAir.

Over that time, there can be no doubt that ConAir in particular has benefited to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars in contract and flight/fuel costs compared to the other two companies.

ConAir provided 5 groups comprising 18 aircraft for the 2015 season compared to 4 planes from Airspray (up from 2 since 2008) and 1 from Coulson (down from 2 in 2007).  The total bill shared in standby costs to three companies in 2015 was approximately $15.7 Million.  About $12 Million of that went to ConAir.  With flight and fuel costs you can add another $18 Million being paid for Provincial air tankers with only $450,000 of that going to Coulson/Martin Mars and $5 Million going to Airspray.  So in total ConAir, in one year, walked away with business totalling as much as $24 million on a total BC Wildfire cost of $277 million.  About 1/10 of the entire budget.  Is that right? That is what the information seems to suggest. We need more transparency.

Donating to Political Parties, or not, is just as consistent.

Since March 2005, ConAir has donated $100,000 to the BC Liberal Party and $2500 to the NDP.

Coulson started donating politically in 2009 and has donated $9450 to the BC Liberals and $5350 to the NDP.  Airspray is not listed as having donated to either party.

You can get there from here.

Finally, remember when the Province said the Martin Mars was not that great because of the small number of lakes it could use in British Columbia?  The FOI included the list of lakes, both those suitable for bases, and those just for scooping.

I have plotted them in Google Earth.  You can download a Google Earth File with the information here.

Here are the Bases.  These lakes represent places where not only the Mars could be based, but any amphibious or flying boat aircraft could be repositioned in times of need.  Except for those way up north, they are all within a few miles of a major population centre able to provide logistics and support.  If there is not already facilities for floating aircraft, these are the places BC should invest in staging areas to facilitate the use of all firefighting water-borne aircraft.

The circles are 600km radius showing the historical range the Martin Mars has demonstrated. For example, from its base in Port Alberni to a fire in Nelson. From bases in BC the Martin Mars can cover all of the province, plus most of Alberta, Washington and parts of Yukon and Oregon. KMZ DOWNLOAD HERE

These are lakes able to be used by the Martin Mars for scooping.  Most are near population centres, where extreme fire conditions are most likely to require extended attention.  It is likely that these are the most commonly used lakes for all firefighting activity by amphibious or flying-boat aircraft.

Rebasing the Martin Mars is certainly one of the key reasons it is expensive to operate.  The amount of support people and materiel that moves with the Mars means an extra $13,000 a day in costs. However, as we saw with the fires in 2003 in the Interior, when you need them, they are worth the cost. A basing scheme with permanent staging points that benefits more than just the Mars would maximize their use and minimize the costs of all water-borne aircraft.

One last thing, that fancy plane.

Remember when Provincial Cabinet Minister Mike De Jong announced in February 2016 that the BC Government would be evaluating the RJ-85 Avro jet powered fire fighting aircraft for the first time in the 2016 fire season?

FOI records do not show any new contract being awarded.  The RJ-85 had already been on a ‘supplementary’ list for additional aircraft since at least 2014.  The RJ-85 has not been used in BC for fire fighting according to the information provided. The information does show that two RJ-85s were flown for a total of 9 hours at zero cost to the Province in 2014. By the way, by the way, is around 2,400 Litres per hour, in line with the all ‘heavy’ fire fighting aircraft.

Take out the Politics. We need all hands on deck.

As I have delved into this topic over the years one truism came up again and again… aerial fire fighting is political.  And here we are, in the middle of a provincial election proving that point once again.

We need a government that will take the politics out of it.  We need a government that will not be influenced, or even be perceived as influenced by political donations from companies that provide its services.  Will the any of the parties commit to this?

In light of the challenges faced us with climate change and the new fire behaviour that it is creating, are we providing adequate protection to our forest service?  Is the Air Tractor, which has had notable safety as well as personnel problems investigated by Transport Canada, the right system for the job?

I believe all of the planes in the provincial arsenal are valuable and need to be used to their maximum potential.  We need to find the best way to minimize the potential for loss of life, property, and resources in BC and a robust initial attack.  Aircraft should not be retired out of spite, or misplaced ‘ageism’. We need and deserve as British Columbians a full costing of the forest firefighting world and an analysis of how best to minimize those costs both now, and in future conditions in 10, 20, or 50 years.

The technology is unlikely to change much in that time, but it seems certain that expectations for success are certain to only rise.

Media Contact: 250-731-7930

 

 

Natural Gas “ban” in Vancouver and what Port Alberni is doing

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)

It is far from popular. I listened to the screaming on CKNW yesterday that they would “ban” natural gas (which isn’t right… it is a phase out, not a ban) and have witnessed plenty of angry 😱😤😤😱😡😡 emoticons across Facebook and Twitter. (There appears to be confusion, possibly intentionally sown? between the targets for new construction and renovation markets, clarification here)  This is an understandable and reasonable reaction.

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.

843

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.

P.S.
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)

P.P.S.

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.”

Council Document

Notes from the first Island Corridor Foundation Liaison meeting

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.

image

image 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.

image

PRoduct #1

is delivered at the white tent above.  Western Aerial receives fertilizer there for forestry.

PROduct #2

image

is delivered a little further in the yard.  The white rail cars are carrying fly ash for the island cement industry.

PRoduct #3

image

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.

PRoduct #4

image

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 #6image

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.

Product #7

image

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.

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We then stopped at a section of the mainline south of Nanaimo where 100 ties had been marked out.

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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.

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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.