Council: Vanderhoof support for Highway 16 transportation deferred to next meeting

...Unpausing Blackwater environmental assessment in early 2017: New Gold, mural and bus shelter proposed at Kenney Dam Road/Hwy 16

The Vanderhoof-based Nechako Valley Search and Rescue team was involved with multiple mutual aid call-outs across northern B.C. last year.

District support for Highway 16 transportation deferred to next meeting

 

The District of Vanderhoof looks to include its one-year, not three-year, commitment in the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s bylaw for Highway 16 transport before confirming its support.

The RDBN already gave first three readings of the regional transit bylaw, which commits the regional district to one-third of its operating costs to be shared by participating communities according to population.

The remaining thirds will be contributed by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, the City of Prince George, and participating First Nations. Some councillors raised the concerns of Prince Rupert opting out and Prince George committing for only the first year.

Last year, the provincial government announced three years of subsidization to public buses travelling along Highway 16, as part of its Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan.

The DOV previously passed a motion to provide $22,460 for the first year of the Highway 16 bus and revisit the cost-sharing formula according to ridership, instead of population.

 

Unpausing Blackwater environmental assessment in early 2017: New Gold

 

Temporarily suspended last September, New Gold’s Blackwater project —  a proposed open-pit gold and silver mine about 110 kilometres southwest of Vanderhoof — will be resuming its environmental assessment early this year, said Blackwater project director Tim Bekhuys to the district council on Jan. 9.

With feedback from the community including First Nations and resort owners, New Gold is making design changes to its tailing facility according to recommendations from the Mount Polley mine investigation, as well as realigning its transmission line to the Endako station.

Construction of the Rainy River Project in Ontario, the company’s current project of focus, is on schedule and 70 per cent complete. Once it’s up and running, New Gold will focus its resources on Blackwater, which is still scheduled to start construction in 2018.

Meanwhile, when the project continues on its permitting phase, the company will partner with communities to prepare local contractors for potential future construction work and have a tree replanting program in the Blackwater project area.

 

Mural and bus shelter proposed for Kenney Dam Road/Highway 16 intersection

 

Receiving district support on Jan. 9, Vanderhoof’s Good Neighbours Committee is advocating and fundraising for a transit shelter and a mural celebrating the Mary John Walk by the old Kwik Safe gas station on Kenney Road by Highway 16.

“We’ve always considered a gap of services for those waiting for rides to arrive from Vanderhoof to Saik’uz First Nation,” a GNC representative said to Vanderhoof’s mayor and council. The location is also one of the potential new bus shelters that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure may add as part of the new Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan, according to the committee’s recent discussions with government representatives.

The District of Vanderhoof’s support for the two projects is dependent on the committee acquiring a letter of support from Saik’uz First Nation, as well as district staff involvement in identifying the bus shelter’s location.

While a councillor raised the concern that the district-owned old Kwik Safe property has an undecided future, two other councillors suggested that the project can go forward as long as it’s understood that the mural could be temporary.

Community partners identified by the committee so far include Nechako Creative Communities Collective, Nechako Healthy Community Alliance, Vanderhoof Menshed Society, Nechako Valley Arts Council, and the John family from Saik’uz First Nation.

 

Business study for Prince George beef processing plant finishes before spring

 

By the end of March, a business plan for a federally inspected beef processing plant in the Prince George area will be completed, said Larry Garrett, Vanderhoof’s vice president for the BC Cattlemen’s Association.

Providing an update to the District of Vanderhoof on Jan. 9, Garret said the study looks at not only Prince George, but also Vanderhoof and the Peace River region for the proposed plant.

Based on a production rate of 400 cattle a day and 100,000 a year, researchers are identifying the amount of cattle available within six hours of transporting distance, including also ranches in Williams Lake area. If a plant is built in this region, the feedlot industry in Peace River area will likely experience growth, he said.

With the dwindling supply of timber in the area, the plant can help support a stable industry in north central B.C.

However, before a multimillion-dollar feedlot can be built and have clean cattle bedding, ranchers would need a stable supply of shavings.

According to a national chain restaurant owner, in-house studies showed that their beef consumers are interested in differentiating where their food specifically comes from, Garret added.

The project was first announced by the B.C. government in July, and is supported by $16,000 from the BCCA and $144,000 from the federal and provincial governments.

According to earlier BCCA research, the plant can, within three years of operation, provide $250 million in annual beef and byproduct sales, an increase in value-added exports of up to $180 million, and up to 180 new full-time-equivalent jobs within the plant and about 620 spinoff jobs.

 

Search and rescue 2016 review

Rescuing mushroom pickers in Yukon, locating overdue hunters near Quesnel, and retrieving plane crash casualties south of Vanderhoof were some of the search efforts Vanderhoof’s search and rescue team was involved with during this past year.

At the first 2017 regular district council meeting on Jan. 9, president Chris Mushumanski presented an annual review of the Nechako Valley Search and Rescue group.

With about 30 active members, NVSAR celebrated its 25th year of service and responded to an above-average number of callouts — four water and 14 ground SAR — in 2016, including multiple out-of-jurisdiction assistance in other parts of north central B.C. In the past 10 years, the highest number of callouts occurred in 2013 and 2015 with 22 responses.

2016 was also the year when the local group moved into its new home on Burrard Avenue and started replacing its mobile command vehicle.

The BC Search and Rescue Association, composed of 80 SAR groups across the province, also received $10 million from the B.C. government as a one-time funding last year, and NVSAR will be using its allocation over two years towards personal protective equipment, tracking training, radio licensing, and purchasing a new mobile command vehicle, which the team will take possession of in August 2017.

Currently funded by gaming grants dependent on annual applications, BCSARA is still looking for sustainable funding for the volunteer teams and NVSAR will receive $5,000 of support from the District of Vanderhoof this year.

 

– with files from the District of Vanderhoof