Bamfield director Keith Wyton wasn’t pleased when he heard about Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan and Port Alberni Port Authority CEO Zoran Knezevic’s trip to Ottawa two weeks ago to lobby for transshipment hub funding.
The port authority first announced plans for the $1.7 billion Port Alberni transshipment hub (PATH) in 2013.
“When I saw in a News story that they’d been in Ottawa promoting this project it really required a response from myself on behalf of my community,” said Wyton.
“In terms of process, whether or not the project goes ahead this is a fundamental issue of who should be at the table in the discussions with any agency and it requires direct consultation with the people most affected.”
But Knezevic said that the port authority has done so, citing a protocol agreement with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations as well as a letter of support from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District in 2013.
It’s that ACRD letter of support that is the sticking point for Wyton.
The letter, dated Jan. 9, 2013, and signed by then-chair Cindy Solda, doesn’t reference a specific location for PATH—just the Alberni Inlet.
“On behalf of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District I offer you our support towards the Port Alberni Port Authority’s initiative to develop a container trans shipment short sea shipping terminal in the Alberni Inlet,” the letter reads.
Citing a story that appeared in the Alberni Valley Times in April 2013, Wyton said that at the time the land identified was a ‘map reserve’ of 750 hectares between Spencer Creek and Coleman Creek—approximately halfway between where Nahmint River join the Inlet and the Inlet’s end.
Citing a July 2014 Alberni Valley News article, Wyton said that the current proposed location —Sarita Bay—wasn’t spoken of until then, a year-and-a-half after the ACRD’s letter of support was written.
“It changes the whole nature of the project and impacts the area and I don’t believe that the regional district has given the port authority a mandate to do a development in Sarita Bay in Barkley Sound,” said Wyton.
Knezevic said that the port authority was never told that the letter of support was in question.
“We have been operating under the impression that we have the support of the regional district,” he said, noting that the port authority has met with Wyton and shared information regarding PATH over the years.
“I believe as well that we have shared with ACRD that the location is between Coleman and Spencer creeks and Sarita Bay,” Knezevic said. A 420-page pre-feasibility completed in June 2014 looked at several sites, including Spencer Creek, Coleman Creek and two Sarita Bay options.
An executive summary on pg. 269 of the study states that “opportunities and constraints for each location were initially identified, as well as an evaluation of the earthwork requirements based on two generic terminal layouts… as a result, the Sarita Bay area, with its north and south sites, is preferred due to the significantly lower earthworks involved.”
The report further noted that costs for a development at Sarita Bay were the most financially favourable but that further investigation was necessary.