A group consisting of local First Nations, Colonial Coal International and Hillsborough Resources has made a conditional offer to purchase Watson Island from the City of Prince Rupert and the District of Port Edward.
The group, known as the Watson Island Development Corporation (WatCo), is offering to buy the old Skeena Cellulose Pulp Mill site for a combined $5.5. million with $5 million being paid to the City of Prince Rupert and $500,000 being paid to the District of Port Edward. Should the deal go through, the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nations will hold title to the properties while WatCo wil hold a 99-year lease for the development and operation of a bulk shipping terminal and industrial park on the site.
“Our plans are to develop a seaport terminal and industrial park on Watson Island near Prince Rupert,” said Watco president and CEO Perry Braun.
“A new shipping terminal will contribute to Prince Rupert’s reputation as a trade gateway to Asia…It will create permanent direct and indirect jobs and significantly expand the city’s industrial tax base,” added Prince Rupert mayor Jack Mussallem.
The sale is conditional on a number of factors, including a remediation plan approved by the provincial government and a site plan being presented to local and provincial governments before the sale is finalized. WatCo will be funding the development of these plans, and says it will be consulting with the community on the site plan development with the goal being a plan that maximized the reuse and repurposing of buildings and materials and has the lowest impact approach to terminal operation.
As well, the three court cases involving former owners Sun Wave Forest Products and the City of Prince Rupert must be resolved before the sale goes forward.
Once the conditions have been met and the sale is complete, work on the new shipping terminal will begin in conjunction with the remediation work. While those conditions are being worked out, WatCo will continue monthly payments to the City of Prince Rupert for the maintenance of the site.
The $5.5 million price tag of the conditional sale is $8 million below the minimum $13 million bid the City was seeking when it put the property up for tax sale in 2009 and below the $6.48 million owed to the City of Prince Rupert in back taxes by former owner Sun Wave Forest Products.