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Ratepayer group asks City of Powell River about mill curtailment plan

Townsite Ratepayers Society questions include what will happen with floating breakwater
REVIEWS CORRESPONDENCE: Townsite Ratepayers Society wrote City of Powell River councillors asking questions about the future of the hulks, and about communication with Paper Excellence regarding the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill curtailment.

Correspondence from ratepayers asked questions of City of Powell River regarding the Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill.

The correspondence, from Townsite Ratepayers Society president Diana Collicutt, asked about the hulks at the mill, and about whether the city has received correspondence from Catalyst owner Paper Excellence regarding the mill’s curtailment plans. The correspondence was reviewed at the June 14 committee of the whole meeting.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said while she was attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in Regina recently, a mill in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, was being revitalized, creating 650 jobs.

“We have a mill here that was up and running and doing well and creating food paper, which they are now going to do on Vancouver Island, and we’re not surprised,” said Hathaway. “It’s just very disappointing that money is being put into different places in Canada and they are shutting down Powell River.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said he has been quite involved with this site prior to and since its closure.

“We were the weakest mill, losing the most money,” added the mayor. “There’s not enough fibre for the mills. You are going to see more going down and more sawmills going down. They are very concerned, the industry is, about if they lose the old growth. I know a lot of people don’t like to hear that. The fibre supply is being dwindled for all different reasons.

“We do have an opportunity, if we are fortunate enough, to see another 100 years of prosperity on that mill site. It’s a great site and I think we want to fight really hard to see the green hydrogen fuel facility come to this town and provide taxes we so desperately need to keep this city going.”

Committee of the whole chair Cindy Elliott said the correspondence from the Townsite ratepayers asks what actions the city is taking to be involved with the curtailment. She asked for a comment from staff about what is being done to stay involved with the correspondence floating between various parties.

Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said Catalyst is committed to sending the city copies of correspondence it sends to the ministry of environment.

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said there were questions in the correspondence about the disposal of the hulks at the mill site.

Formosa said there has been preapproval for four to be sunk for divers. He said one has been sunk and there is the ability to do three more.

He said if Renewable Hydrogen Canada, the group he has been supporting to occupy the mill site, was to locate at the mill, it would be its intention to bring in new, lower barges to protect the shoreline.

“It would break my heart to see [the hulks] go,” said Formosa. “It would be their hope to get them sunk for tourism.”

Formosa said the hulks are an environmental liability, but as long as the anchor chains are maintained, the vessels are pumped out and repairs are conducted, they will continue to float.

Councillor George Doubt said his understanding is there are significant maintenance costs to make sure the hulks keep floating and a risk of environmental damage if they don’t.

“My understanding is that Paper Excellence is responsible for the entire cost of the maintenance and bears the entire liability for any environmental damage,” added Doubt.

Formosa said that was correct.

Committee of the whole gave unanimous consent to note and file the correspondence.