Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A summer break from blogging

We're going to get a head start on the Long Weekend travel and a chance to get one final break in this exiting COVID summer. 

As we head out, we take leave of our blogging themes for the next little while, with a return target of somewhere along the lines of August 9th or so.

Towards those preparations to head off into the sun (we hope), we had offered a sacrifice and ministrations to the Weather Gods for our loyal readership. 

That as we sought to secure a full ten days of sunshine for the North Coast in our absence. 

Alas, it would appear we only partially appeased the Weather Deities with our offering.

As a result, we can offer up mostly sunny skies to shine on Prince Rupert during our absence, though we shan't talk about next Tuesday and Wednesday if you don't.

While we take a break from the delivery of new and original content, feel free to browse our archive pages found as part of our right hand column and catch up on some of the themes you may have missed in recent weeks.

We'll see you back on the other side of forecast period.

Province expands powers for municipalities to ban single use plastics

A push towards the elimination of single use plastic items
may soon get underway, that after the BC government
amended regulations for how local government can 
address the issue in their community.
(chart from the Gov't of Canada website)

If they wish, Prince Rupert City Council can now take advantage of some new rules, designed to allow local government to institute bans on plastic bags and certain single use plastic without requiring provincial approval.

In an announcement from Tuesday, the provincial government outlined how they have amended a regulation under the Community Charter to allow local governments to ban single-use plastics, including plastic checkout bags, polystyrene foam containers and plastic utensils, which includes stir sticks. Previously, municipalities required ministerial approval to implement a plastics ban.

George Heyman, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy noted how the province was responding to the desires of local government across the province with the measure.

“Communities across B.C. have made it clear they want to be environmental leaders by taking steps to ban single-use plastics. We will continue to work with all levels of government to protect our land and waterways from plastic pollution and the harm it creates. Local governments wanted the ability to act without delay, and now they have it.”

Locally one large commercial organization has introduced their own plastic bag initiative, with Canada Safeway shifting away from the use of plastic bags in May of this year

So far they are the only significant commercial sector group provider in the community to do so.

More notes on themes from the Provincial government can be explored here.

Comment Period underway for proposed land use amendment for property off of Mishaw Road in Industrial Park

A call for comments is underway related to a proposed amendment for an
parcel of land in the Prince Rupert Industrial Park area

(photo from Govt of BC documents)

 The Ministry of Lands, Forest and Natural Resources is currently holding a comment period related to a proposed change to some land use in an area of the Prince Rupert Industrial Park, part of an application from Amix Real Estate Holdings.

The application which is posted on the government department website, outlines an amendment to the current use of the land as Log Handling/Storage, with the applicant looking to add a fuel transfer operation.

This is an application to amend the use of an existing Licence of Occupation, licence #SK916696. The current use is Log Handling/Storage. The requested use is Commercial General A. 

The project is a fuel transfer operation where diesel fuel and gasoline would be barded to the site and fuel transferred from transport barge to the storage barge A.T.L. 810 and then transferred as needed from the storage barge either to a truck loading arrangement on the shore and loaded into trucks or to a loading arrangement on the storage barge capable of delivering to smaller vessels. 

The applicant owns the adjacent upland property (171 Mish-Aw Road Prince Rupert).

The Synopsis for the Application notes that the property is zoned as M3 with a range of permitted uses which include: (c) Marine transportation, (e) Transportation terminal, (f) Bulk commodity storage and terminal, (h) General industrial, (i) Marine commercial, & (j) Marine fuel station.     

The location of the area in question related to the current
opportunity for comment process

(from the BC Gov't website)

The deadline to submit comments related to the application is listed as August 18th on the government website; though an advertisement of the notice in the weekly paper notes of deadline for comments of September 4th.

You can watch for any changes to the comment period deadlines as well as to  review the full application and supporting documentation here.

Council express enthusiasm along with approval for financial support for Ecotrust plans for community energy feasibility study

Graham Anderson from Ecotrust Canada provide Prince Rupert
City Council with an expansive overview of some energy initiatives
that could be a good fit for the community

Prince Rupert City Council is on board when it comes to the development of a feasibility study towards a community energy initiative that was outlined to Council on Monday evening.

A preview of what Ecotrust Canada has in mind for the region was provided as part of the Committee of the Whole session for Monday, with Graham Anderson the Director of Community Energy Initiative providing for a short overview of the work of Ecotrust on themes of community energy initiatives. 

His presentation also noting as to how Prince Rupert would be a good fit for the Home Energy Retrofit program, something which addresses the issue of Energy Poverty.

As he explained it to council Energy Poverty finds households having to allocate larger than typical of their household income on energy needs and is propelled by three drivers: low household income, high energy prices and low energy efficiencies in their homes.

Towards a solution he outlined how a program to deliver Heat Pump opportunities with partner communities has been well received in recent years, noting of their success on Vancouver island and in Bella Bella, noting how the program would be one worth exploring in the Prince Rupert area.

The Ecotrust official observed how the situation in Prince Rupert is one which is the strongest opportunity for a Heat Pump solution in the country; noting of the high cost of energy, the age of the housing stock and how the climate aids the operational aspects of a heat Pump.

"We see a really uniquely strong opportunity for heat pumps in the community of Prince Rupert for a number of reasons. We'd say its actually one of the strongest opportunities in the country. And a big part of that is that you have relatively high heating fuel costs here, the natural gas costs the rates are just higher largely due to transportation. And so when your fuel costs are almost twice as high that creates a much greater opportunity for cost savings through retrofits.

You have an older housing stock on average as well. And you're on a cool coastal climate which is really ideally suited to this type of opportunity and so the heat pumps will operate at their highest possible efficiency in this climate" -- Graham Anderson from Ecotrust Canada, on the merits of Heat Pumps for Prince Rupert homeowners

Towards moving forward he identified a couple of obstacles currently in place,  the first was access to funding and financing, as well as the access to an energy auditor which is a requirement of the program, with the closest one in the North based out of Prince George.

He also observed as to some of the lack of awareness in the region towards the opportunities that a  Heat Pump solution could offer.

Towards building up that knowledge, Mr. Anderson noted of a desire to create a locally financed feasibility study to undertake such a program; as well as to develop some capacity locally to allow for local residents to have access to the program available in the community.

The local organization would also like to build a program of local promotion and coordination to help move the initiative forward in the North Coast region.

As part of their efforts, Ecotrust is making a request of the City for letters of support and matching financial support of 7,500 dollars, the latter to be used in 2022 towards furthering their initiative in the community.

Mr. Anderson also observed as to how the Ecotrust plans had a strong connection with the City's Sustainable City 2030 plan that the city has developed towards replacing fossil fuels.

In follow questions and comments, Councillor Niesh observed of some of the challenges locally in finding contractors at the moment to provide for the installation process of the Heat Pumps and how if the program is to be effective they may need someone locally in place to assist in the installation process.

Councillor Randhawa followed up by asking for some costing on the proposal, the reply was that the cost. was anywhere from $5,000 to $18,000, with rebates available towards $8,500 depending on the scope of the project.

Councillor Nick Adey expressed his enthusiasm for their proposal and how it addresses climate based issues in the community, he then asked for some additional background on the request for the $7,500 in funding from the city.

"Thanks for the presentation, I'm pretty excited about the ideas involved in this, I think that in general people are moving towards a place where they see a need to address these kinds of issues in their home and in the border picture of climate based issues beyond the home. The letter of support that is asking us for seventy five hundred dollars, maybe a little more detail on that. My understanding of that it would allow us to move towards access towards a much bigger pool of money, could you explain how that is going to work"

Mr. Anderson outlined how that would represent ten percent of a contribution which is the required amount from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which is the lead organization for the funding project in order to move forward with a feasibility study.

"That's right, so that's connected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities opportunity specifically, and they require ten percent, or they request ten percent matching contribution from the city. And that would be a feasibility study defining the opportunity here. 

So assessing a number of local homes to develop an understanding of really exactly how much a homeowner could stand to save. Looking at partnerships with local financial institutions on potentially setting up a local fund. 

And that feasibility study could lead to designing a program that then could access up to ten million in  financing, so it would be essentially financed by FCM and half of that is through a grant as well so they would support administration and start up and operating costs of that fund. 

So it's a fairly significant pool of capital to support the cost of running it and also to be deployed in the community"
Councillor Cunningham offered up some observations on a recent installation that he had knowledge and noted that some of the cost may still be somewhat prohibitive for many residents in the community.

In reply, Mr. Anderson noted of some areas where prioritization of the program could be beneficial and for some households it may make more sense for those planning to replace their entire furnace and heating system.

Mayor Brain asked about the request for 7,500 dollars for the feasibility study and what kind of timeline is required, particularly towards when the City funding would be needed, Mr. Anderson noted that it would be part of their plans for moving forward in 2022.

The Mayor observed how that would be helpful towards the city's budgeting, he then thanked Mr. Anderson for his presentation.

A report from the City's Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller provided some further background to the requests from Ecotrust as well as to how it fits in with the City's Sustainable community initiatives. 

Later in the Regular Council session,  the members voted in favour of both of the letters of support and the financial assistance towards the feasibility study, though it was not identified on Monday as to where the city would provide the 7,500 dollars for the study from.

As they offered their support for the program, the Mayor outlined his enthusiasm towards it.

"I think that this is a great process to undertake and it will be good for the community"

The full presentation from Mr. Anderson can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive page starting at the eight minute mark; later in the evening the short discussion and approval of the Ecotrust requests can be found from the 35 minute mark.

More items of note from the Monday Council session can be explored from the Council Timeline Feature

Further items of interest from past Council sessions can be found from our archive page.

For a more expansive look at some of the City's other themes on Sustainability see our archive page here.

A look at some of the energy initiatives from Ecotrust Canada can be reviewed here.

City Council to Telus: Try again ... City provides some push back on site choice for Cellular tower proposed by communication company

Telus has proposed the placement of a cellular communication
tower in the area adjacent to the BC Hydro site on Highway 16

"I put forward the motion that we refuse this location, as, cause of the same as the previous one. Which, it's the location it's not so much the height that they've changed. So I'm thinking that we should put forward the motion to basically refuse the location but to work with Telus, and again with the proposed locations that we have given them" -- Councillor Wade Niesh providing the motion for discussion on a tower proposal from Telus on Monday evening

Councillor Wade Niesh led the charge on Monday evening, as Prince Rupert City Council dug in its heels over a proposed cellular communication tower, expressing its lack of support for a location that Telus would prefer to build an area near the BC Hydro site on highway 16.

The councillor provided the wording for a motion Monday that will urge the communication company to find another site for their tower, with the city having offered up a stretch of land along Highway 16 as their preference.

Duelling opinions on cel tower location choices. Telus prefers a location
near the BC Hydro site. The City  would rather see a location
along the Highway on the east side of Mount Hays

The decision to make their thoughts clear to the communication giant came following an extensive report from the city's contract planner Robert Buchan, who charted some of the background to what could be a percolating dispute between the City and the national communication provider.

Among the themes introduced by Mr. Buchan was how the Telus site has already been noted by the city as being in a high profile location that does not meet the preferred location criteria as outlined in City council policy.

"The report before you is seeking Council's direction on whether or not it wishes Telus to proceed with community consultation on a proposed cel tower adjacent to Highway 16. The city has already given feedback once on a previous version of this, but that proposal has been amended  reducing the size of the tower from 50 metres to 30 metres. 

However it is still in a high profile location that does not meet the preferred location criteria as outlined in Council's policy regarding this. So we're wondering whether or not Council wants to give feedback now asking Telus to find a new location, or whether it should procede  with community consultation on this and render a decision at a later time" -- iPlan planner Rob Buchan

Mayor Lee Brain sought some clarification on the path forward for council on the topic, with Mr. Buchan outlining some of the background to the issue for the council members.

"Staff have been certainly working on this for some time, Mr. Pucci before myself and we've given quite a number of alternative locations and we've asked them to actually give us an area identifying the entire, I guess an area that would work for their specifications. 

We haven't seen that yet, we are aware that they are looking at other options but they are very interested in this particular location. But given its sensitivity at the gateway to the municipality, we thought that council may want to weigh in on this now, and if you're ok going to public consultation you can let them know that. 

But if it's simply not a suitable location I think it's reasonable for council to advise Telus of that at this point. We would still work with Telus to find a location that would work for them. -- -- iPlan planner Rob Buchan

With Councillor Niesh's motion the spark of the debate, two of the city's six councillors spoke to the topic

Councillor Adey inquired as to the preference by Telus and if there are any technical reasons that may be behind their choice.

Mr. Buchan provided some notes on that topic, though he noted how technical themes were not part of the skill set of City staff.

"No,  just the results of those technical reasons. They say that the other locations we've given them don't work for them.  Though we're not in a position to be able to assess whether or not that is completely accurate or not because it's not our skill set. We're aware, or hear that other cel providers do have service, community wide service without this location so it's not clear to us why it wouldn't work for them as well"

Councillor Mirau endorsed the position of Councillor Niesh, noting how the city should not seek out a public notification for something they wouldn't agree with in the first place.

"I tend to agree with Councillor Niesh on this piece, I don't think we need to go to public notification for something that we wouldn't support in the first place. So I think it makes more sense to try and find a location that works best for both parties and then move from there."

Other than the mention of the proposed location in a 'gateway' area, neither staff or Council members expanded on any other reasons as to why they were opposed to the Highway location adjacent to the BC Hydro site.

You can review the full report from iPlan from our preview of the council session from Monday.

The Discussion of the Telus tower placement plans can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 28 minute mark.

More notes related to Monday's Council session can be explored from our Council Timeline Feature.

A wider overview of past Council discussion topics is available here.

Other themes on communications notes can be explored from our archive page here.

Athletes with ties to Northwest set to take to the Olympic Stage

There will be some additional rooting interest to be found for residents of the North Coast and Northwest as the Tokyo Olympics continue moving forward into the weekend ahead, with a pair of athletes with some past ties to the region looking to make their mark on the world stage. 

Alycia Butterworth who was born in Prince Rupert, but now lists Parksville on Vancouver Island as her hometown will start her journey in the 3,000 metre Steeplechase this weekend.  

With the first heats of the event set for Sunday August 1st,  with the Finals and quest for medals to take place on Wednesday August 4th.

The Olympian is coming off some strong performances in recent track events that propelled her onto the Olympic team and her chance to claim a medial in Tokyo.

Joining Ms. Butterworth on the track in Tokyo will be Hazelton's Regan Yee another resing star for the Canadian team, she is not the first resident of that community to don Canada's colours in competition. 

Some notes on their Olympic journey can be found below:

July 24 -- Chasing dreams together: 2 steeple chase stars from Northern BC head to Tokyo to take on the world's best
July 14 -- Prince Rupert runner jumps hurdles to make the 2020 Olympics 
July 9 -- Parksville athlete Butterworth thrilled to be headed to Tokyo Olympics

Learn more about the Olympians from their Biography pages

Alycia Butterworth

Regan Yee

 You can look back at some of the history of British Columbians that have represented Canada at the Olympics from this archive page, included among the Olympians are 11 who called the Northwest, North Coast or Central Coast home.

More advice on city's new garbage collection policy to come this summer, as size of City supplied cans brings questions to Council members

Prince Rupert residents received the new garbage and
recycling bins over the last few weeks

(photo provided by NCR reader)

The city's launch of the new garbage and recycling program is still creating a few more questions than it has answered, with the size of the new city supplied garbage cans making for some conversation at the Monday night City Council Session.

Councillor Nick Adey provide for the talking points on the night, taking up the topic of the City's recycling program which he observed was a giant step forward. 

Though the Councillor did relay some comments from the public over the size of the city supplied garbage cans and asked for some clarity from city staff as to the policies in place towards additional garbage need.

"Recognizing that my position on the recycling program is that it's a giant step forward and the question I ask is in that spirit. What I am hearing more often than anything now is a comment on the size of the garbage cans. So I guess as a point of clarity for the public, is it my understanding that those households who find themselves in excess capacity of that garbage can, can still put out a second garbage can that will be taken" -- Councillor Nick Adey

The feedback from the community on the size of the city supplied garbage cans was something which we noted last week, that as the roll out of the delivery of the cans made its way across the city.

Director of Operations Richard Pucci spoke to the topic, noting that city staff is considering a program for those residents who have more garbage that one container can hold, a proposal which would see those residents be charged for a second bin from the City, and as time goes on they can return the bin to the city and the charge will be taken off. 

"We've heard some of those comments coming forward and we're looking at a program where households that believe they are going to come up with more garbage and still be recycling will have an opportunity to get a second bin, at a charge, and then when they no longer need that bin they can return it to the city and that charge will then be taken away.

The idea is that, at the time that you need that bin, the second bin, for however many number of years you can use that but as time goes on you probably won't need the bin anymore and it can be returned back and your service will just be back to the standard service -- Operations Manager Richard Pucci

Mr. Adey further observed how he and his household had explored ways to adjust their footprint, however he also raised the topic of how there needs to be a level playing field for those living at home alone and for larger families, noting how those two sets of circumstances should be taken into account.

In reply, Mr. Pucci outlined how staff would be coming back to Council shortly with something for a review for the program re-roll out.

"So we will be bringing something back to Council to review, and so ultimately Council will have the decision on sort of the program re-roll out.  But you know we feel that we've given a net positive as you know with the amount of sort of let's say airspace within the two bins it actually is a positive amount to just the two bags that you get now. So it equates to probably about four bags when you look at the amount that goes in the garbage and the amount that goes into the recycling which is quite a bit larger"

The Director of Operations further noted how residents can drop as many bags as they like in the new city black bins which makes use of a dumping mechanism and can thus have more garbage loosely placed into the city supplied cans.

"We're not doing a bag limit anymore, it is, it's you know kitchen catchers and smaller things can go in that black garbage can which then can be sort of compacted more, so it's not just two bags in there. Because it's a dumping mechanism now so it can be more loosely put in and compacted into that can"

To bring that discussion to a close, Councillor Adey once again reinforced his enthusiasm for the new program and note that was relaying questions that he had heard.

The indication that residents cannot use their own garbage cans but will be charged for a second city supplied can seems to be a slight change from some original information posted to the city website just a few weeks ago; which as we noted at the time seemed to suggest that residents could use their own cans for any garbage overflow from the city supplied version.

Judging by some of the confusion over the mid summer roll out of the program, another information campaign may be required by the City to help clarify some of the still fluid views of how the twin programs are going to work.

When the city's curb side recycling program starts in 
September, the product will be taken to the Kaien Road
Regional Recycling centre for further action by the facility

Earlier in the evening, during the Committee of the Whole session the city's recycling program was noted by one city resident, who had asked Mr. Pucci what happens to the recycling material once it will picked up at curb side.

In reply, the Director of Operations observed that it would then be taken to the Regional Recycling Centre and that they decide on how to dispose of the material according to their own policies.

You can review the themes of garbage and recycling from the City's Video archive from both the Committee of the Whole session of Monday night 23 minute mark  and later in the Regular Session towards the end during the Councillor's Comments or Question segment Fifty minute mark.

For more notes related to Monday's Council Session see our Council Timeline Feature.

A wider overview of past Council Discussion themes is available from our archive page here.