A new dryland log sort in Alberni will create jobs, retain more wood fiber and attract investment in the Valley, Mayor Ken McRae said.
The new Western Forest Products sort area is located beside the Alberni Plywood Division mill on Harbour Road and started operation on Monday morning.
The 7,400 square metre site cost more than $1 million to build and will employ eight people to start, said Kevin Somerville, WFP operations manager.
“What this represents is that we’ll now be able to sort wood at this end of the Inlet,” he said.
The site is a short distance from TFL 44 and is therefore in a good position to handle wood from third parties, he added.
The site will be used for mixed stock logs likely from WFP’s Franklin River operation, as well as from its other operations in the region. The site will also be used as a sort for logs from the Alberni Valley Community Forest.
The logs previously went over the hump to sort facilities on the east coast of the Island.
The logs will be sorted, scaled, and graded before being bundled and transferred to water booms before being either shipped to a mill or onto a barge.
More jobs, more fiber and better investment potential are just some of the benefits the new sort area will bring, Mayor Ken McRae said. “Fiber will be worth more than oil one day,” he said. “Once there is a steady supply of fiber here we can attract investment.”
The investment would come in two forms. One would is the ability for WFP to parlay an increased annual cut now that it has a sort facility. And two, that a company will buy in and find value in second growth smaller wood.
The idea of a dryland sort on the site evolved two years ago during the market meltdown, Somerville said. WFP approached Island Timberlands and asked for ideas and concepts from its manufacturing division about the idea.
The land identified for the sort area was previously used by APD for storage.
Concepts and drawings were drawn up and use of the area was hammered out between the companies, union, and city.
According to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website, the agency required that an environmental assessment be performed on the site before the project could commence.
The agency determined that the project would be developed within the existing footprint of previous development. As well, that 3,100 square metres of foreshore fill and 650 square metres of shoreline rip rap protection would be required.
In March of this year, the EA decided that the project would not cause any significant adverse environmental impacts, and it gave a green light for it to proceed.
Plans were finalized and development of the site began last summer. Local firm Bowerman Excavating did the bulk of the site work, which was substantial.
“Log sort involves using machines that weigh in excess of 120 tonnes so the ground and surface has to be stable,” Somerville said.
The sort site is the end result of a partnership between Western Forest Products, Island Timberlands and the city, which owns the former plywood mill site as well as water rights in the area.
“We’ve been looking at this for awhile it’s come together now,” McRae said. “With APD next door this is a natural fit.”
The city is looking at the area again and a new industrial road may be in the works, McRae said.