On March 10, five of us took advantage of an invitation for a tour of the Williams Lake Power Plant (WLPP).
It took about an hour for our guides Terry Shannon and Jacob Steyl to walk us through the main building of the complex.
Our courteous and informative guides also spent time before and after the tour answering questions and giving us some background on the establishment and running of the plant.
As expected there was considerable debate over the ability of the plant to deal with creosoted rail ties (CRRTs) in an safe manner.
Terry and Jacob pointed out the extensive monitoring systems and the tests that showed that they were below or somewhat over the levels set by the government. The visitors pointed out that government guidelines have failed to protect its citizens in the past in some circumstances and suggested that clean residual fibre (CRF) should be considered which could reduce considerably the investment needed to deal with RRTs and eliminate health concerns around the use of RRTs.
My impression is that most of the planning and effort so far to deal with anticipated fibre shortfalls has focused on using creosoted rail road ties (CRRTs) and not clean residual fibre (CRF) so I sent the following information to the WLPP prior to our visit so we could discuss a win, win approach of using CRFs.
According to the Feburary 2015 chief foresters determination of the AAC for the Williams Lake TSA, a fibre shortage will come in four to nine years.
The three million cubic metres of fibre will be reduced to 1.5 million.
That means a reduction in the sawlog fibre, as well as a reduction in the hogfuel component produced by the lumber manufactures.
Discussion papers prior to the last two AAC determinations indicated the forest industry accounts for 30 per cent of the after tax income for the region.
The number of direct jobs associated with the forest industry is 4,800 workers and if induced/indirect jobs are included the total is 6,484 jobs.
A reduced AAC translates into 2,400 (direct) and 842 indirect unemployed forestry workers.
As the shelf life of the dead pine is reached the sawlog fibre changes to pulplog fibre in addition to the usual residual fibre of tops and branches which could be useful for another 20 to 30 years (depending on the end use) to help employ displaced forest workers.
The discussions that should be taking place now would involve major licensees, logging contractors, logging and chip truck drivers and the potential pulp wood fibre users.
The Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resources Operations should also be involved to see how the new (Dec. 14, 2015) Forestry Fibre Action Plan could be implemented to ensure affordable fibre reaches the right place.
In my opinion the use of CRRTs is about profits for APC shareholders and is not in the best interests of any residents.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.