Watson Island has found its industrial grim reaper.
More than a few things may be headed to the mechanical afterlife through the decommissioning of a very large portion of what was once the Watson Island Pulp Mill. Its assets will be removed by NRI Group, an Ontario-based asset management firm familiar with paper mill sites throughout North America.
“We are pleased to be able to move forward with the decommissioning of the pulp mill, which will enable the site to be repurposed so that Watson Island can again contribute to the economy of Prince Rupert,” said Mayor Lee Brain last week.
Currently NRI Group, who earlier signed the demolition contract with the city, is in the planning stages with Stantec, an engineering consultant, to determine which portions of Watson Island will be decommissioned as part of a complete two-year process that will begin on the island immediately.
“Right now they’re doing preliminary work on budgets and estimates and that type of thing and what the plan is exactly going to look like,” said the mayor.
To whom the assets may be sold to and what will be retained is also part of the planning process.
There are some areas that won’t be affected by the decommissioning and have been identified as being in good standing condition, such as office buildings, but the majority of the site will be decommissioned.
What the city would like to see happen with that land is still up in the air due to a legal dispute between WatCo, a wholly-owned company of Colonial Coal, and the city regarding who owns the land.
“We still have a certificate of pending litigation (CPL) on the island through our legal claim with WatCo … Basically until that CPL is removed, we can’t really sell the island right now,” said Mayor Brain.
“It’s a very attractive piece of property. It has huge strategic value for the region. It’s got a wharf access, rail access and truck access. If the site were to be cleaned up and flattened and ready for industrial use, we believe that it could really contribute to Prince Rupert’s economy, get the tax base expanded again and be a really good compliment to other industries that are trying to settle here.”