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Prince Rupert Port Authority sends letter addressing wood pellet terminal concerns

The Prince Rupert Port Authority has a sent out a mass letter to respond to concerns being raised about a proposed wood pellet terminal on the waterfront.

The letter is being sent to residents who live in the Water Street area, very close to Westview Terminal and its adjoining rail yard, and comes after three residents from that area, Frances Kavalec, Camille Mark and Pierre Plant, came to the September 19 council meeting object to putting a terminal so close to their neighborhood. Council had just decided to send a letter of support for the project at their previous meeting  after listening to a presentation by the company responsible for the project, Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group.

The residents argued that they were concerned that the noise, light and especially the dust coming from the new wood pellet terminal would lower their property values, disturb them in their homes and have unintended health consequences for themselves and their families. They were also concerned about the safety and noise of having increased train traffic and trucks driving in their neig-hbourhood to get to the terminal.

The biggest complaint though was that the project appeared to be moving ahead, and gaining municipal endorsement without anyone asking what they or their neighbours thought about it.

The letter from the port authority attempts to address many of these concerns. According to the port authority, there has been no public consultation yet because the project is still in its early planning stages.

“Some residents who live close to the site have expressed concerns  to the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Indeed, port developments of this nature require public input. However, Pinnacle’s announcement was made months before the anticipated start of the official environmental assessment process – which will include public consultation,” reads the letter.

The port authority is assuring residents that once the environmental assessment begins, they will be able to have their say and that their views will weigh heavily on the decision made by the regulator.

“Simply put, your opinion matters. If Pinnacle’s proposal proceeds to an environmental assessment, your participation in community consultation will be highly valued,” reads the letter.

The port authority also addresses some of the concerns about the wood pellet terminal itself, although it will ultimately be up to Pinnacle to defend its design and location when the assessment begins.

According to the letter, the new terminal  is designed to minimize the effects that the residents who came to council are worried about. This wood pellet terminal would be considerably smaller than others owned by the company with four silos for pellets, three connecting railroad tracks, a compact ship berth and loading equipment.

The equipment for loading the ships will use a “low-speed pellet chute” which will have an enclosure around it. This  is supposed to “virtually eliminate” the dust that the residents are worried poses a health threat to their families. The design is supposed to significantly cut down on noise from the terminal as well.

The port authority says that the reason why Pinnacle is not looking to put their terminal somewhere in a more industrial area of the Prince Rupert port, like Ridley Island, is because of the terminal’s small size. According to the letter, to set up a facility on Ridley Island costs a lot of money that only large projects can justify spending it. That’s why Pinnacle chose to set up their smaller facility in an area designated for light industry.

One of the residents to lodge the complaints about the terminal, Francis Kavalec says she feels that by telling residents to wait for the environmental assessment, the Prince Rupert Port Authority is brushing their concerns aside.

“I’m a little worried that our concerns just might fall on deaf ears...They’re playing with us. They have to listen to us on paper, but they’re going ahead with what they want to do anyway,” said Kavalec.

Kavalec says that the project shouldn’t be progressing as far as an environmental assessment without public input.

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