From waste-to-energy incinerators to a natural gas loading facility, there’s lots of speculation regarding the end use of the former Woodfibre site. One thing’s for sure: It’s all good news for Squamish, says a forestry consultant.
Last week, Western Forest Projects announced a tentative agreement to sell the 212 acres of waterfront land that used to be the site of a pulp mill and company town southwest of Squamish. The sale comes with conditions, environmental remediation being one of them, Western project and site manager Rick Kormendy told The Chief last week.
While the timberlands management company estimates it will be two years until the cleanup is complete and the property can change hands, Squamish residents are contemplating the site’s future.
A natural gas pipeline runs behind the property, Eric Andersen said. The gas source could be used by industry or the site could be used as a loading facility for the gas, he said.
The latter isn’t a new idea, Andersen noted. In 1997, there was a plan to build a liquefied natural gas storage facility west of Woodfibre.
“There have been a number of proposals,” Andersen said of the property’s history.
In 2006, Vanport Sterilizers Inc. proposed to build a plant on the lot that would turn Greater Vancouver’s garbage into bioenergy and artificial soils. The site suited the project and still does, Vanport president Richard Tennant said. Waste management operations need space, something the Woodfibre property offers, he noted. Its deep-water port is accessible by barge, the cheapest form of transporting waste and other material, Tennant said.
Vancouver ports are currently seeking a solution to dealing with tankers’ ballast water, he added. Just as with garbage, the Howe Sound property could be used as a facility to process contaminated ballast water, Tennant said, noting vessels could meet the tankers, transfer the water over and transport it to the Woodfibre site.
“It is a big problem getting rid of it,” he said. “[The ports] don’t really have a control system for it.”
The site has access to two high-pressure water sources — Mill and Cedar creeks, Woodfibre’s former resident engineer George McLeod said. A pipe 20 inches in diameter from Cedar Creek carries 420 pounds of pressure per square inch to the property, he said, adding that a Mill Creek water pipe runs at approximately 235 pounds per square inch. The two creeks ensure the site has water year-round, McLeod said.
McLeod said he always thought the site would make for a great naval research site because of its unique water supply. The ocean bank in front of the site, drops 900 ft below the surface, he noted.
“There is no spawning capability on Cedar or Mill [creeks] because there are waterfalls close to shore,” he added.
Since the Woodfibre mill closed in 2006, Western Forest Products has sought to sell excess energy generated by a turbine on Woodfibre Creek to B.C. Hydro. The company holds the water licences on the property. That project is moving forward, Kormendy told The Chief last week.
“We are going to be online selling power in April,” he said.
The property, which lies within the District of Squamish’s boundary, is zoned for industrial use. When the mill was in operation, through property taxes alone it contributed approximately $2 million a year to the municipality.
Mayor Rob Kirkham said he’s pleased to see economic activity surrounding the former Woodfibre property. The district is fortunate to have such assets, he noted.
“The site has many unique attributes and so we certainly welcome the news that it will be put to productive use once again, bringing jobs and taxes to our community,” Kirkham stated in an email. “Squamish is on the radar of a range of industries and we’re seeing diverse interests coming forward.”