Curious Rupertites visited the Watson Island open house on Dec. 6 to learn more about Pembina Pipeline’s recently announced propane terminal project.
“There are a lot of people here today, a lot more than anticipated, which is great,” Mayor Lee Brain said. “We’re happy to finally be able to showcase it and have people come and see what’s going on and what the project looks like. Lots of positive feelings. I think people are very pleased to see the Watson Island saga close one chapter and open a new one.”
Pembina announced its final investment decision on Nov. 29, 16 years after the pulp mill — one of Prince Rupert’s main industrial sites — closed on the island. Then on Monday, Dec. 4, the City of Prince Rupert passed Pembina’s development permit to begin work.
Revenue for the City
The mayor said tax revenue and lease revenue accumulated over the next few years will help shift the tax burden from Prince Rupert’s residents back to industry.
Although Brain cannot comment on other potential projects in discussion with the city, he said that there is more in the works for the rest of the land on Watson Island. The Pembina propane terminal is expect to take up about 13 per cent of the site.
“We’re advertising the fact that it’s a multi-modal place. It’s got access to road, it’s got access to rail and water,” Brain said.
“Watson Island is back in business,” said Joel Zaleschuk, senior manager of business development for Pembina.
“We looked at many different sites before choosing Prince Rupert as the best possible location for a propane export terminal. Prince Rupert had a combination of a skilled labour force, excellent deep-water port as well as excellent rail connections with CN,” he said.
Upcoming jobs for the terminal are expected to include as many as 200 short-term construction jobs for approximately 18 to 24 months. While some of the final decommissioning of the former pulp mill wraps up, Zaleschuk said they expect the construction jobs to start in the next six months and the head of engineering is already looking to hire for those positions.
“Once we get in service in the middle of 2020, we’ll be able to provide somewhere between 20 and 30 full-time operating positions at the Watson Island site,” Zaleschuk said.
He recommended checking the Pembina website for openings and said that they anticipate holding job fairs in Prince Rupert and the surrounding area in the near future.
Pembina is in the process of applying for two permits: an air discharge permit for an on-site enclosed flame and a loading authorization for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the Port of Prince Rupert. Workplace BC will be the permitting agency for the rail.
“Through Pembina’s best practices, we’re already going through various environmental testing on the lands that we’re leasing from the city of Prince Rupert to ensure that we’re not building on top of any damage that may already be there,” Zaleschuk said. “Although all environmental hazards are the responsibility of the city, Pembina is working very closely with the city to ensure that the leased lands are cleaned up as per directions by the Ministry of Environment.”
Zaleschuk added that they have been in contact with potentially impacted First Nations bands, and will consult with them not only per the requirements of the two permits but as the company’s general practice.
“We plan to keep them fully updated on the process all the way through,” Zaleschuk said.
In an email, the communications manager for Metlakatla First Nation, Shaun Thomas said the company has been in touch with the band.
“The Metlakatla First Nation has had very preliminary discussions with Pembina regarding their plans to construct a propane export facility on Watson Island. While we have been disappointed with our interactions to date, Metlakatla looks forward to more substantive consultation and discussions with Pembina in the near future,” as stated in the email.
The public can learn more about the plans for Watson Island at the to-be-scheduled Hays 2.0 Blueprint presentation in the early new year.