Better access to and from an industrial site under development by the Kitsumkalum First Nation’s economic development arm is being sought just east of its main village location.
On the list is a new turnoff from Hwy16 and re-entry point just west of the bridge crossing the Kitsumkalum River leading to the village, says Diane Collins, the general manager of the First Nation’s economic development group.
And given the prospect of increased heavy vehicle traffic from the industrial site as its use grows, Collins says a new or extensively renovated bridge crossing the Kitsumkalum River is not out of the question.
“So this has been the subject of our discussions with the province,” said Collins.
Right now trucks use the West Kalum Forest Service Road exit from Hwy16, right where the First Nation-owned Tempo gas station is located, something now considered unsuitable because it is also used by residents of a nearby subdivision.
The road also runs immediately beside the location the Kitsumkalum First Nation has tagged for a new village school.
“When you think of how long those trucks are, the B-trains, something safer is needed,” said Collins of the lobbying for a new route with adequate turning lanes to and from Hwy16.
Kitsumkalum area residents and highway users have already had the experience of an increase in heavy vehicle traffic thanks to a contract to supply foundation material from the First Nation’s Kalum Quarry for the just-opened AltaGas propane export terminal at Prince Rupert.
That’s on top of a steady supply of quarry material meant for other customers and an eye on liquefied natural gas development in the northwest.
The quarry is also CN’s preferred supplier of crushed rock used as a foundation for its rail beds in western Canada.
But Collins says the real increase in industrial traffic will come when a transload facility is finished.
Located to the east of the Kalum Quarry, the facility consists of a large cleared piece of land featuring an extension of a rail spur from the CN that already runs into the area.
The vision is that companies wishing to ship goods or resources by rail, will first unload them on land they lease at the facility and then place those goods or resources on rail cars.
“Then it’s going to get really busy,” said Collins.
The Kitsumkalum proposal is for a submission in concert with the provincial government to a federal financing program aimed at improving northern trade corridors.
While the provincial transportation ministry confirms discussions with the Kitsumkalum, it says there are not any imminent plans for improvements.
The ministry did acknowledge increased business activity has increased traffic and that it “will work closely with the Kitsumkalum to ensure it remains safe for both people accessing the quarry as well as traffic on Hwy16.”
Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross says he’ll be bringing the Kitsumkalum request for highway and access improvements to the attention of the provincial government.
The commitment follows a tour of the quarry and briefing on the industrial transload facility this past summer.
And that tour came after Collins approached him in June in Kitimat at a ceremony heralding federal spending at the LNG Canada project as well as a commitment to spend $55 million to replace the Haisla Bridge, the only connection to the industrial lands south of Kitimat.
“She said she had another bridge she wanted to talk to me about,” said Ross in reference to the possibility of replacing the bridge cross the Kitsumkalum River.
With a liquefied natural gas industry now establishing itself in Kitimat, Ross said it’s time to consider and support other economic development opportunities.
“What the Kitsumkalum are doing, having a solid business plan that works, it’s to build a better world for their people,” he said.
The MLA noted that the transload facility expands upon a piece of land that was used as a laydown yard and work camp during the construction of B.C. Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, a project that concluded in 2014.
“To have that investment in that land then, it’s worth it today,” Ross said.