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Eighty per cent of Watson Island decommissioned

City of Prince Rupert states that full demolition and decommissioning of old pulp mill site to be complete by fall 2017
The City of Prince Rupert says that 80 per cent of the Watson Island decommissioning project has been completed to this point.

With the visual help of a video posted to social media on Wednesday, the City of Prince Rupert offered up a look into the demolition and decommissioning of Watson Island by contractor NRI Global, which started the process in 2015.

A news release from the city explains that 80 per cent of the old Skeena Cellulose pulp mill, which used to be located on the island, has been decommissioned so far with the remainder scheduled to be completed by fall 2017. Subcontractors Stantec and Clearview Demolition are also working on the site.

In the video and with footage offered by NRI Global, multiple standing buildings in the area are shown to be demolished by controlled implosion techniques.

Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain explains in the video that 95 per cent of materials collected by the contractors will be recycled, including “dangerous pulping chemicals,” which will be used in other pulp operations across B.C.

The pulp mill, once the largest single employer of residents in Prince Rupert, closed its doors in 2001 after operating since 1955, with the city becoming the “unwilling recipient” of the property in 2009, with previous owner Sun Wave Forest Products conducting a tax sale at the time.

In 2015, Sun Wave owner Ni Ritao said in a newspaper advertisement that the settlement agreement between Sun Wave and the City of Prince Rupert was null and void due to his legal authorization not being provided.

The city responded that the confidential settlement agreement was handled by Sophia Liu, a general signing authority, who was granted full authorization to execute and deliver on all documents related to the settlement on behalf of Sun Wave, thus a 2013 settlement agreement is legally binding.

Wednesday's news release states that the city is unable to offer any more financial details from the agreement due to its confidential nature, but it is enforced by the courts.

Prince Rupert Legacy Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the city, took on additional costs of decommissioning activities “so as not to burden taxpayers.”

It's a much needed next step for the site, said Brain in the video, surrounded by heaps of scrap material where once stood a fully operational pulp mill more than 15 years ago.

“The decommissioning of Watson Island represents Prince Rupert tearing down its past and preparing to build a new future. Once decommissioning is complete we look forward to new prospects for Watson Island to generate tax revenue for the city again,” the mayor said, adding that the revenue from any new industrial activity at the site will greatly enhance recreational wants and needs from residents like trail building projects, or rebuilding city infrastructure, or advancing public transit.

City director of operations Richard Pucci expects the project to be completed on schedule.

“The decommission process is securely on its critical path. We are very happy with the partners we have on this project, and we anticipate that it will be complete on schedule,” said Pucci.

City communications manager Veronika Stewart was unable to provide further details at this time on whether the city is at the point of discussing options with any potential new tenants for the site, or if the city has yet to establish any timelines of a sale or leasing opportunity for Watson Island.

The release states that the city plans on keeping it an industrial site with the intention of having it contribute to city revenues.