Dawson Creek council gives frac sand trans-load facility preliminary approval

By on September 17, 2015
Rendering of proposed building. Photo: Screenshot from proponent presentation

Rendering of proposed building. Photo: Screenshot from proponent presentation

DAWSON CREEK – Pending a ten-day public notice process and approval from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the development permit for the construction of a frac sand cold-storage and trans-load facility in Dawson Creek received preliminary approval by city council on September 14.

The proposal now goes through a ten-day notification period wherein adjacent properties will be notified of the details of the project and given opportunity to comment on the proposal.

It is not an opportunity to naysay the project, but to have an opinion on details such as landscaping or structural elements.

These comments will be reviewed at the September 28 council meeting, when council will either consider them relevant and request adjustments to the proposal, or the project will be receive final approval.

The proposed project has been a point of controversy in the past months as opponents have questioned the appropriateness of the zoning of the site as Light Industrial, and public health concerns around silica sand dust were raised.

Owners of Upper Montney Estates, Scott and Matt Butler and Doug Scott, launched a public campaign opposing the project, including mail-outs, a website and petitions to city council.

Most council members and mayor Dale Bumstead held fast to the zoning, which was decided earlier in the year would stay, as the owners of the land, CN, had threatened litigation if zoning was changed.

“If somebody applies for a building permit or a development permit within a zone that works, that’s what the city says the development can occur, so we wouldn’t stop it, or couldn’t stop it,” Bumstead told Northeast News in an earlier interview.

“But I’m not saying that we couldn’t stop it, because you could always stop it, but the ramifications of that are and could be significant, both in terms of litigation and/or issues, so it would be speculative for me to say what council will do because we’ll deal with it in August when we get the development permit brought forward to us and then understand the proponent’s plans in terms of ensuring that everything they’re planning to do meets the zoning requirements, and the bylaw for the zoning, and then council will make the decision as to whether the proposal will move forward or not.”

At a public information session on September 10, Darryl Wiebe, the main proponent of the facility—of local company 0889450 BC Ltd.—had a chance to address some of the concerns raised by the public, such as traffic noise.

Weibe also had a chance to tell Northeast News that he felt that the main opponents to the project, of Upper Montney Estates, had more than just public health on their minds.

“There’s ulterior motives,” Wiebe said. “If I don’t build there, they want to build on the land, there’s reasons why they’re fighting as hard as they are.”

The Butlers and Scott had developed the land directly to the east of the proposed facility into Dawson Creek Apartments, and have also publicly stated that they would purchase the land from CN, however the developers have stated that their motives were to move forward with the proponents of the facility and CN to move the project to a site farther from its currently slated location.

In a presentation to city council on September 14, Wiebe showed that traffic noise concerns had been addressed, as discussions with the Ministry of Transportation had concluded that the project will not require any upgrades to local infrastructure or changes to design in order to accommodate their traffic requirements.

The maximum number of trucks which will run through the facility per month is 200, Wiebe said, and they will be required to limit their speed to 10 km/hour, which will make impact on residents from vehicle noise minimal according to his presentation.

The presentation listed the benefits of the facility as the millions of dollars invested in Dawson Creek for the long term, tax revenue, and jobs created at the facility as well as trucking jobs.

Weibe told Northeast News that there will be between four and six jobs created by the facility itself.

The facility will be located between 8th and 15th Streets, north of Alaska Avenue.

It will be around 57,000 square feet in area and the maximum height of the facility will be 42.7 feet, a height which will limit the facility’s expansion, according to Wiebe.

The facility will not be a 24 hour operation, as many frac sand trans-load facilities are.

“We don’t have the volume; our building is large square foot because we don’t have the height, so our building’s only 40 feet high,” Wiebe said.

“So we have a larger surface area, but we still don’t have the rail capacity that some of the larger facilities that do run 24 hours a day have, we won’t be running 24 hours a day.”

The proposed project will be constructed out of high strength architectural fabric, tension-wrapped over a steel frame.

There will be a dust containment system, supplied by RoboVent Mobile Dust Collectors, within the structure to prevent escape of particulate matter into the atmosphere, according to the staff report to council.

Landscaped berms to the south and east of the building will screen the sight and noise of the operation from neighbours, including double rows of spruce and pine trees.

The report also states that the entire driving and parking areas of the facility will be hard surfaced by January 1, 2018, and in the meantime dust suppressant will be added to gravelled surfaces as required.

Lighting of the facility will be certified “Dark Sky Friendly”.

The report does state that health concerns have not been addressed, as the “City’s Development Permit Guidelines focus only on physical building and site design related to Form & Character and Energy Conservation. For these reasons, topics related to public health and environmental principles have not been addressed in this report.”

Council discussion around the permit was straightforward.

Councillor Mark Rogers wondered whether city staff had been rushed in the process of assessing the development proposal, and whether the entire staff was behind the recommendation to accept it.

“Staff stands behind our recommendation. It is a general truism . . . that Dawson Creek is more responsive to development applications than Surrey, this would be a two year process in Surrey,” said Jim Chute, Chief Administrative Officer.

“But that’s how you like it, that’s how staff likes it, we work through these issues, the developer in this case has spent many many hours in Mr. Whitehead’s office [Senior City Planner], working through all the elements in the development permit guidelines, and we’re satisfied that this makes your guidelines.”

Councillor Charlie Parslow asked staff whether there would be an emergency response system in place in the case of a spill, to which Chute replied that since silica sand is not listed as a material which requires a response plan, this had not been as yet considered by staff.

“For instance, the federal regulation says if a grain car holding silica sand topples over, there’s no emergency response required at all,” Chute said, “it’s a, ‘you clean it up when you get to’. Silica sand is everywhere, for most of the last two years there’s been a big pile of it at the golf course, just open, blowing everywhere. It’s now been moved, but it’s not treated that way, it’s not on the lists as dangerous or hazardous material that needs these kind of plans.

“Silica dust is on a long list of things that are carcinogenic. Alcohol is considered carcinogenic, grain dust is considered carcinogenic and explosive. There are lots of things on that list and some of them have a regulated response, but you don’t need a plan . . . there was a time when asbestos wasn’t on any of those lists. Things change over time, but for now, they’re not on any of those lists.”

Parlsow and Terry McFadyen opposed the motion to accept the permit.

Parslow moved that air quality test results which will be conducted on the proposed site by official regulators be shown to council: “I concur we’ve got excellent stuff going into this facility, I think the public assurance piece is important to me, so just to know that we’re looking at the results on their behalf, will I think give some confidence to some people, who are very cynical about regulators and other people, that we’re looking at it.”

Parslow’s motion passed, not before councillor Shaely Wilbur questioned the fairness of it: “Then would we also be asking for those results from every other facility that has air qualityLP [Louisiana Pacific], our street sweeper? Are we just singling out these proponents, or are we going to ask for it from everybody?”

“Where there’s public concern, I would act in the same way,” Parslow said.

Bumstead said that he was happy with the project’s preliminary acceptance; although not in an ideal location, he said it signals increased revenue for Dawson Creek and possibly a new market.

He also said that with the city’s location on the rail line, that transportation is the strong point which Dawson Creek will build it’s infrastricture on.

“That’s what built our community, is that rail,” he said.

“Do I wish it was in a different, location? Absolutely. But it isn’t, that’s the fact of life, that CN siding, that land exists there. I think the development of this facility on behalf of our community is going to bring positive growth, it’s going to bring positive activity, building on the entire process of natural gas, and the development of that. We’re on the tracks of that development. I think it’s something to look forward to.”

Stacy Thomas


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