Girders for the Peace River bridge will be coming in to the Peace via rail, thanks to a recent decision by Northern Sunrise County council.
After a public hearing at the June 11 council meeting, Northern Sunrise County passed amendments to a local bylaw that will now allow Savage CANAC Corporation to diversify the uses of the Reno rail facility.
Representatives of both Savage and CN rail were on hand for the public hearing on Bylaw B353/19 for the purpose of amending Bylaw B275/15 to add Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Processing and Industrial, Heavy Manufacturing and Processing as discretionary uses within the Crude Oil Storage District.
“Northern Sunrise County, like so many counties in the central region, are net importers and next exporters, so things that are developed here and produced here need to leave to get to global markets, as well as access from those global markets here into the area,” said Savage sales manager Curtis Shuck.
“So when we started to look at this opportunity and approached the council to make a bylaw amendment, we really wanted to take a triple bottom line approach which is environment, community, and businesses. It’s got to make sense on all three of those levels.”
Shuck explained how the project would help reduce carbon footprint by moving goods via rail instead of trucks and how it would help add additional jobs to make employment in the county more sustainable.
“We want to make sure that our operation, whether that’s crude oil or some of these other opportunities, are done in accordance with best practices and best available sciences to make this truly a flagship and a community asset,” Shuck said.
Some of those opportunities include not only project cargo like the new Peace River bridge girders, but also agricultural products, helping farmers get their product to market whether on a large scale or a small scale.
Mineral bulk products like cement, forest products, and other products could also be moved.
Shuck also pointed out the new transportation hub would benefit more businesses than just Savage.
“I guess what’s important as well is to mention that this is not just about the Savage Northern Sunrise County facility but this really benefits any of the crude oil facilities that are located in Northern Sunrise County.”
“We see this opportunity to rise the tide, and a rising tide floats all boats, right? It creates an opportunity across the county,” Shuck said.
Shuck pointed out rail access will help connect the county to sea ports and to the US market, where CN serves several facilities.
“From a business perspective, the third leg of the stool if you would, it’s really about connecting Northern Sunrise County to the global economy,” he said.
“This project has CN’s full support to have a multi-commodity served site in this area,” said Greg Karpo, Manager for Business Development for CN’s western region. “We currently do not have one and see this as a great opportunity.”
Karpo said he has worked on similar projects in Grande Prairie that have been very beneficial to that community.
Local Reno residents Jocelyn and Tony Saunders were on hand at the public hearing to get some more information.
Jocelyn Saunders asked exactly what kind of heavy manufacturing and processing would be happening, and municipal planner Alicia Mody responded that the bylaw was very general in nature.
“But the next step in the development process would be for the applicant to come before the municipal planning commission and that would be a much more specific ask, so in this case this will be for the transloading facility that Savage is interested in operating out of that site,” Mody said.
At that point, Mody said there would also be another public hearing about that specific application, and since the bylaw was being changed to discretionary use, the planning commission would always have the opportunity to say yes or no.
“I know everybody brings up roads, but even the Reno pavement to my mind is not in terribly good shape and then there is a little piece of gravel which causes a problem in the winter…so that presumably would be addressed at some point?” Saunders also asked.
Northern Sunrise Reeve Kolebaba appeared sympathetic to that concern.
“The last time that we had a lot of heavy traffic on the Reno road, the little piece of the gravel between the end of the pavement and where Savage turns, and that there was very yucky, it needed more grader time, it needed more maintenance, and I know it was a mess because I went over there a few times. So what are we going to do about that stretch?” Kolebaba asked.
“If it was something that slipped in past, that was never our intent or what I hear of their intent so we’ll make sure we’re on it,” said Ian Cosh, director of engineering for the county.
“If something goes awry you certainly are welcome to phone me,” Kolebaba said.
Shuck also encouraged Saunders to contact the company directly if needed.
After the conclusion of the public hearing, the bylaw amendment passed both first and second reading.
Reeve Kolebaba then asked when the girders for the Peace River bridge would be coming.
“Very soon,” Karpo answered. “Now that we have the favourable decision we will work hard on nailing down some timelines.”