Sawmill buys power line logs

RECENTLY-REOPENED Skeena Sawmills says it wants to buy all the trees it can from those cut down for BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line.

  • Nov. 28, 2012 8:00 a.m.

RECENTLY-REOPENED Skeena Sawmills says it wants to buy all of the trees it can from those that have been cut down to make room for BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line.

The mill took delivery Nov. 22 of 14 truckloads of logs, purchased from the Kitsumkalum First Nation’s Kalum Ventures forestry arm which has the contract to clear 68 kilometres of the 344km power line right-of-way from BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation just south of Terrace to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North.

“We’d love to have access to that wood, we can use more wood,” said Gian Sandhu, who consults for Skeena Sawmills owner Roc Holdings Ltd., about wood that will be cut along the route farther north.

“Our people have been talking to First Nations bands,” said Sandhu about getting more NTL right-of-way logs for the mill. “They’re continuing to negotiate.”

Skeena Sawmills opened its doors Nov. 5, starting by running one full shift of workers. It wants to get the mill up to two shifts but that would require an additional 450,000 cubic metres of wood, according to Sandhu.

Skeena Sawmills, which does have markets for what it can produce, has for months been saying that a shortage of logs is one of its biggest challenges.

Last week, it shipped its first order.

Save for specific work such as chipping, the sawmill has been closed since the fall of 2007 and the sale to Roc Holdings of the equipment and wood licences was welcomed in the area.

Sandhu said the potential to use much of the 490,000 cubic metres of wood being logged off for the transmission line right of way is attractive.

Mill log buyer Brendan Wilson is now speaking with First Nations further north who have clearing contracts.

He said that because Skeena Sawmills opened in late fall, much of the Kitsumkalum wood had already been accounted for.

“If Skeena Sawmills wasn’t around we would have probably shipped that wood down to Prince Rupert like we have with everything else,” said Lyle Bolton of Kalum Ventures of the purchase and delivery made last week.

“All the saw logs and the pulp logs have been separated,” Bolton said. “All that is getting burned …(are) tree tops and brush.”

BC Hydro has been under fire recently for allowing large amounts of wood to be burned along the right-of-way of its $561 million project to deliver dependable power up Hwy 37 North.

Critics have said the wood should more properly be used in sawmills and other wood-processing facilities.

BC Hydro has deflected the criticism, saying that it signed contracts with First Nations along the route to handle all aspects of tree clearing.

One of the factors that has been cited as affecting moving wood is the high cost of transportation from where it is cut to where it could be processed.

“Nobody wants to move the wood at a loss,” said local forester Rick Brouwer.

But he noted that the highest cost of  northwestern logging is actually getting into the forest.

“It’s a sunk cost already,” said Brouwer of money spent falling trees, meaning that it would have been spent regardless. In economic terms, it needn’t be factored into the sale price of a log, he added.

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