Diane Collins grabs a black marker and quickly sketches an outline on the left-hand side of the whiteboard in her office — a tall loop followed by short horizontal lines on either side of the loop.
“This is my brain,” the general manager of the Kitsumkalum First Nation’s economic development group laughs in pointing to an almost exact replica on the other side of the whiteboard.
That’s because the loop represents the extension of a spur line from the CN main line running right beside Hwy16 as it passes the Kitsumkalum village just west of Terrace. Those those short horizontal lines are meant to be three-acre portions of a 110-acre logistics park now under development.
The idea is that companies will lease those portions to stockpile goods and material which will then be loaded onto rail cars bound for transport to markets far and wide via CN’s main line.
Collins is quick to point out the geographic advantages of the logistics park’s location.
A portion of the park incorporates a 25-acre section that was cleared and used by Valard, the prime contractor on B.C. Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line project, as a camp location and laydown yard.
“Valard did provide some services, water and power, and now we can expand on that infrastructure,” Collins notes on a recent tour of the site.
And the park is immediately adjacent to a quarry site operated by Kalum Rock Quarry, one of the Kitsumkalum First Nation’s companies, which has developed into a major supplier of a variety of rock crush products using a three-kilometre spur from CN’s main line.
It’s this spur that will be extended into the logistics park location.
Collins, along with quarry general manager Randy Latimer, point to piles of rock crush produced by the quarry and then placed along the length of the spur line running through the former Valard site.
Those piles are ballast CN uses as the foundation of its rail beds in Western Canada and they’re positioned so to be easily loaded into waiting rail cars.
“Ballast is rated at 0 to 10,” says Latimer. “Ten is too hard, two to three is too soft. Ours is seven and that’s optimum.”
He’s been told CN uses the quarry’s ballast as far east as Manitoba.
Collins says CN purchased approximately $5 million worth of ballast last year, a sign of its value to the company and an example of what the quarry can produce.
Last year the quarry produced foundation material for the just-opened AltaGas propane export terminal at Prince Rupert, an indication, says Collins, of what can be expected as industrial activity picks up in the region.
“And we are also shipping to Kitimat,” she adds of liquefied natural gas development now underway in and around that community.
Closer to home, in fact just a few miles away along Hwy16 eastward toward Terrace, the logistics park has already lined up its first customer — Skeena Bio-Energy, a new pellet producer, and sister company to next-door Skeena Sawmills.
It’s now shipping its finished product by truck to a temporary location just outside of Terrace for loading onto rail cars.
But company president Roger Keery says it’s looking forward to using the logistics park.
“The closer the haul distance for us the better able we are to be competitive and the Kalum siding is both closer and is much simpler to access,” he said.
“The sooner we can move to the site the better it will be. The system we are using now is working, but we expect getting in and out in the winter will become a problem.”
Skeena Bio-Energy is using Kitsumkalum trucks to ship to the temporary location and will also be using them when its logistics park spot is ready.
“Ideally, we can start using the Kalum siding before it snows, even if it means sharing track space with the quarry,” Keery noted.
The logistics park development and quarry operations caught the attention of Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross following a tour.
“What the Kitsumkalum are doing, having a solid business plan that works, it’s to build a better world for their people,” he said.
His particular focus is to back a call by the Kitsumkalum for better and safer access to the quarry and park from Hwy16, work that will need the cooperation and approval of the provincial transportation ministry.
Right now heavy industrial traffic shares a road with a residential subdivision. The Kitsumkalum also have plans to build a school along that road.
Better access could mean turning lanes on Hwy 16 to accommodate heavy industrial traffic, a new route entirely into the quarry and logistics park and, potentially, a renovated or new Hwy16 bridge crossing the Kalum River.