An error surrounding the title and who owns lands used by CN Rail near Prince Rupert’s waterfront has been discovered due to a local group lobbying for improved noise control from increased train traffic, Prince Rupert Environmental Society (PRES) stated in a press release, on June 17.
Upon complaints to the city from residents about industrial noise and repeated requests for the city to enact its own noise control bylaws, the lands were initially represented to the group as being federally owned with no municipal jurisdiction to enforce. However, upon the group pushing forward their own investigations, the City of Prince Rupert has been named in a June 4th email from Foresty Lands and Natural Resources as the rightful property owner.
The lands being discussed are a large tract of land with rail lines between the CN Aquatrain barge terminal and Drax Wood Pellet Terminal (formerly owned by Pinnacle Pellet), PRES stated in the press release.
The group is calling on the City of Prince Rupert to now take responsibility for years worth of unacceptable noise which has been affecting local residents in Graham Ave. area as well as across the harbour.
Colleen Fitzpatrick, a homeowner since 1988 in the area disturbed by the noise, and a member of PRES, told The Northern View she hasn’t slept a solid night in more than six years due to the loud shunting of trains, train engines running more than four to five hours, the heavy vibrations shaking the foundations of her house and decreased air quality from the train diesel fuel.
Fitzpatrick said the noise levels from the train traffic have been double the permitted 55 decibels. While the noise levels must be reported by the Prince Rupert Port Authority they are averaged out over time and therefore not accurately represented at the time of the noise action, she said. The noise at night has been affecting the quality of life for residents.
“We were getting what, I would say was like artillery fire, extreme shunting and some of those decibel levels would reach like 110,” she said knowing this fact because noise levels can be monitored online.
Fitzpatrick said the noise issues have been going on for years and have been affecting her household personally since 2013 when she returned to the city from living away for a few years. However, she said she knows of families in the area who have been battling the situation for longer.
She does acknowledge that DP World has made efforts, as the noise has been reduced somewhat for the past three months from midnight to 7 a.m. but she said, there are still ongoing issues that need resolution.
“Some of the people who are the engineers on the train, can do the shunting late at night at the waterfront and it’s not an issue,” she said. “… DP World identified to us that it was a problem with the training and consistency of the people who are doing the job. And that’s why I say, the last three and a half months, the nights have radically changed, but we still have some significant incidents during the day.”
Communication such as letters, emails, phone calls, meetings with all of the stakeholders, personal addresses at city council meetings, as well as meetings with the Mayor and some counsellors have not resulted in a satisfactory remedy to all of the problems, Fitzpatrick said.
In the fall of 2020, the group was even appointed City Counsellor Nick Adey as a liaison to assist with the issues. In January they received correspondence stating the city held the position that as a municipality they had no jurisdiction over federal lands where the train lines crossed through, the press release stated.
“What we were trying to find was a way to get the problem resolved, and that opened the door for what was ultimately discovered — that the land does belong to the city.”
The finding of the land survey error, which was the way the land parcels were being presented in the survey base, took several weeks to fix but has now opened some possibilities, Fitzpatrick said.
“At this point with the Land Title’s saying, yes, the city does in fact own it, they should be able to enforce their bylaws. It may open some doors for some real positive change in Prince Rupert,” she said.
“PRES is hoping the city can now not only enforce its noise control bylaws but in addition use the land title to negotiate waterfront access for the public,” the press release stated.
The Northern View has reached out for comment from The City of Prince Rupert and CN Rail.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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