Katrine Conroy, B.C. Minister of Forests, was in Williams Lake on June 16 to make a $25 million funding announcement and tour Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.(FESBC) projects in the area.
The $25 million will fund another round of FESBC projects aimed at reducing wildfire risk and enhancing wildlife habitat, reducing greenhouse gases (GHG), forest recreation and ecological resiliency.
While in town for the day, Conroy toured previous projects supported by FESBC to further the crown agency’s purpose of supporting locals to “implement innovative forestry project that reduce greenhouse gases, protect communities from wildfire, improve wildlife habitat and create jobs.”
“Since the beginning of the haul differential program (which helps offset transportation costs to bring wood waste to markets), we delivered over 450,000 cubic metres of pulpwood and biomass that would have been burned before. No question, the help from FESBC has drastically reduced the waste in the bush and is keeping over 80 of us directly employed through very tough times,” stated Philippe Theriault, general manager of Tsi Del Del Enterprises in the release announcement.
Tsideldel and Williams Lake First Nation development corporation projects have both been utilizing grinders to turn burnt trees and wood debris removed for ecosystem restoration and fire hazard reduction in the area into biomass fuel to help supply Atlantic Power’s Williams Lake Power Plant. Affordable biomass has been harder to source since demand for wood biomass has gone up, partially at least due to the expansion of pellet production.
Blezard said these partnerships through FESBC have been key to keeping the plant viable due to the plant’s fixed ability to pay for product based on the rate set by B.C. Hydro. This is while fuel, maintenance parts and other costs have gone “through the roof” added Blezard.
The plant directly employs 28 people and would produce enough electricity to power about 50,000 homes in a year by burning wood waste.
Steve Kozuki, executive director for FESBC explained to the tour group and Minister Conroy how “our forest sector is integrated” and emphasized the interdependence of all of the different forestry companies and wood fibre users in the local forest industry. He stressed the importance of some of the FESBC partnerships with local companies in supporting local jobs and making local forestry more sustainable.
The Williams Lake Power Plant was the final stop on Minister Conroy’s all-day tour.
Earlier she visited a drone seeding project by Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation and then she visited a biomass grinding project with Tsi Del Del Enterprises where logging slash is being turned into fuel instead of being burned in piles.
She made a stop at an ecosystem restoration project at the Williams Lake Community Forest on Bond Lake Road which also reduces wildfire risk to the community.
FESBC said it has supported 263 projects throughout B.C., and 43 of these projects have been in partnership with First Nations. These projects have reportedly reduced wildfire risk in 120 communities and have created about 2,200 full-time-equivalent jobs, among other outcomes.
“This investment is an important part of our upcoming Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy to support more resilient communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide job opportunities for people,” stated George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in the announcement.
Since 2017, FESBC reports it has funded the use of 4.8 million cubic metres of wood fibre that otherwise would have been burned in slash piles or abandoned. The society stated the combined GHG benefits of FESBC fibre use, tree planting and fertilization projects is 5.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent sequestered or avoided, which has the same GHG benefit as taking 1.1 million cars off the road for a year.
Applications for the newly announced funding open up on June 20, 2022.