Saturday, September 19, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Friday, September 18, 2009

Rumours swirl about a mill lands purchase offer, Canpotex makes plans for an open house/town meeting and the Mayor offers some enthusiasm over the major power project for the Highway 37 corridor, while Gary Coons wonders about the provincial governments commitment to the project, some of the items of note in the Friday news cycle.

LAX KW'ALAAMS MAKING OFFER TO PURCHASE WATSON ISLAND-- The Lax Kw'alaams council and an unidentified partner have apparently made a formal offer to the city to purchase the Wastson Island property that is up on the "for sale" block, that at least according to the Daily News. An interesting twist in the story, what with the deadline of September 29 looming large as the date when the property would revert back to the City and with it all of the expenses one imagines that go with an aging infrastructure. While Lax Kw'alaams appears pretty definitive in its claim, the City through the Mayor seem to be offering a more cautious approach, suggesting that the two sides are still in the discussion phase. Left unsaid is what use the land will have and if a working pulp mill is part of any future plans. (Daily News Archive story here )

Canpotex is coming to town and the town meeting/open house on September 22 should provide some more information for us as to what their plans may be regarding the building of a potash terminal at Ridley Island. Canpotex is pondering a couple of options for their future needs, one includes a terminal in Prince Rupert while the other would see an expansion of their existing operation in Vancouver. Their meeting on the 22nd in the city provides the company the opportunity to gauge the interest and potential incentives to building their terminal here (Daily News Archive story here )

Those looking to put the brakes on Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project are finding comfort with a recent environmental challenge to the company's Alberta Clipper pipeline project, that is to take oil reserves from Alberta to the USA, that project is facing a challenge in the US. Enbridge however, suggests that both projects are still very much moving forward and that the challenges are just part of the process and not something that they are worried about (Daily News Article not posted)

The Sports section features a preview of the Cannery Road Race hosted by the Prince Rupert Running club as well as an update on the Prince Rupert Rampage season ticket plans.

Mayor welcomes transmission line, but MLA questions provincial commitment-- Mayor Jack Mussallem is viewing the news of funding for the Northwest Transmission Line as a positive development, outlining how he believes there will be spin off opportunities around the Northwest from it. And while MLA Gary Coons also welcomes the Federal money, he wonders if the Provincial government still is as committed as it once was. (see article here)

Cross border power-- The CBC also examines the Highway 37 electrification project, taking a look at how the power line may impact on our neighbours in Alaska. (audio report here)

Front page headline story
Lax Kw'alaams making offer to purchase Watson Island
By George T.Baker
The Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, September 18, 2009

That old pulp mill on Watson Island may be breathing new life very soon.

But just whose financial oxygen that would come from on September 29 is still very much a question that needs to be answered.

If the Lax Kw'alaams elected council have their way, it's going to be them.

According to Chief Councillor John Helin, Lax Kw'alaams council have secured a partner and have made a formal offer to the City to purchase all of the Watson Island property that is currently up for tax-sale.

While Helin could not divulge who that partner might be, he did say that it is serious offer and that a meeting was held with Mayor Jack Mussallem and City Manager Gord Howie on Wednesday.

"We have been dealing with this for over a year now and have been doing our due diligence," confirmed Helin.

In a newly issued press release, the Band Council said that, "Given the broad net of liability cast under the British Columbia Environmental Management Act, it is not surprising that purchasers with a real intent to build viable economic opportunities, have been absent from the advertised sales of the property so far."

"With the possibility of prospective owners with no real stake in the region, the Tsimshian and the hapless taxpayers of Prince Rupert on the sidelines are wondering what unpleasant surprises are in store from future potential long-distance owners."

When asked if he would have the kind of financial resources needed to not only purchase the property but to also pay the $6 million in taxes owed by the China Paper Group (SunWave) and to complete the environmental clean up that the provincial government would require before a return to operations, Helin said that he did.

"Our partner will be able to help us with that side of things," said Helin.

Intriguingly, Mussallem said there have been no formal offers whatsoever at this point and added that he would classify discussions with Lax Kw'alaams as 'exploratory'.

The Mayor did confirm that he has met with Lax Kw'alaams council at least three times about the property since he was elected last November, but his point-of-view is at odds with Helin's as far as how deep those conversation have gone.

"They have been told to submit [an offer] in writing and until they do it's just talk," said Mussallem.

At this point, the purchasing game is a very sensitive one and the only thing clear right now is that the City wants no part in owning or operating a pulp mill.

"There has been increased interest in the mill property as we draw closer to the sale date," said
Mussallem. "We would be hopeful that the taxes would be redeemed and the property sold to someone who is credible and take into consideration local employment. But the people of Prince Rupert want those back-taxes to be payed."

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