Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Review Panel makes change to Prince Rupert sessions

Those residents of Prince Rupert and the North Coast who were making plans to address the Enbridge Northern Gateway Panel will have to revise their calendar, as the Panel announced yesterday that it has changed the scheduled date of their trip to Prince Rupert.

The Prince Rupert sessions were scheduled for November 22 to 29, however the Panel has reconfigured their Prince Rupert visit, eliminating that first week and arriving as planned for the start of the December 10th segment of the hearings.

The reason listed in documentation from the Hearings website being, that questions and issues from Prince George leg of the hearings had not been completed and the panel members wish to complete those presentations prior to moving on to the Northwest.

The Prince Rupert sessions will take place from December 10-18 at the North Coast Convention Centre below the Chances Gaming Centre. The hearings are scheduled to run from 8:30-3:30 pm from Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 12:30 on the Saturday.

There was no word on whether the change in schedule will result in the loss of North Coast sessions, by removing the November 22 to 30 meetings from the Prince Rupert schedule, the North Coast would seem at the moment, to potentially have lost a week of access to the panel.

Earlier this month the Prince George Citizen reported that there would be more sessions in the New Year for both Prince Rupert and Prince George, the press release of yesterday made no mention of any  extra sessions on the agenda.

The timing of the reconfiguration of the schedule will no doubt raise a few eyes among some potential participants of the Prince Rupert segment of the hearings, especially following as it does Saturday's 7.7 earthquake on Haida Gwaii and the aftershocks that have followed it.

A topic that we're sure someone will mention when the December sessions arrive in Prince Rupert.

You can access background information on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Hearings from the Joint Review Panels website.

Our archive of Northern Gateway related items can be found here.

Items from other media sources on the schedule change can be found below.

CFTK-- JRP's Return to Rupert Delayed

City Council looks to set up Task Force on Small Cruise ship potential

One of the final items on the Mayor's checklist from last week's city council session was the opportunity to discuss and seek guidance from council as to the prospect of setting up a task force to investigate the potential of small cruise ship line making Prince Rupert a port of call.

The Mayor outlined some of his thoughts on the issue, proposing that it may be a revenue generating project that would better utilize the Prince Rupert Airport, which would be the arrival and departure point for cruise lines which would base their coastal operations out of the city.

You can hear some of the thoughts of the Mayor and council on the topic from the video archive of the October 22 council session (see here) the cruise ship topic arrives at the 2 hour thirty three minute mark.

The Task Force would bring together some members of Council, the business community and the Port of Prince Rupert to explore the feasibility of servicing small cruise ship passengers through the Prince Rupert airport.

The move is the latest attempt from the City to revitalize the cruise industry in the region, last years short schedule of cruise visits resulted in a wake up call of sorts for the local stakeholders.

The 2012 season saw only a few port calls from the large ships that run up and down the Pacific coast through the summer, though local volunteers did their best to provide an outstanding experience for those tourists that made Prince Rupert a stop on their itinerary.

It was a community effort that did not go un-noticed by the larger cruise lines,  as 2013 offers up a bit of progress on the arrivals list. There are seven vessel calls scheduled so far for next summer, compared to the four visits of 2012. Though even the subtle jump in potential visits for the summer of 2013, is not quite at the level of the excited prospects that were outlined but a few years ago.

The bid to attract the small cruise lines would be more of an enhancement to, rather than a replacement for the larger lines that have removed Prince Rupert from the port of call list.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority and the Cruise Task Force in the community continued on with their efforts this past summer to return Prince Rupert to the map for the larger cruise lines.  Working out a blue print to attract new arrivals to Prince Rupert in the competitive industry.

The nature of that competition has community after community seeking out an edge in what they offer the cruise lines, leaving the cruise lines to  be in the captains' chair when it comes to picking and choosing where they wish to pull in for a visit at.

Some of the items of note over the 2012 Cruise Ship season can be found below.

Cruise Ship Task Force Update
The Silversea Shadow docks in Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert welcoming three cruise ships in July
Cruise ship arrives in Prince Rupert
With first ship arriving May 4, the Prince Rupert Cruise Task Force is seeking volunteers
Cruise Task Force updates Prince Rupert council before next week's ship arrives
New position looks at improving cruise in Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert Cruise Task Force discusses the importance of 2012 cruise season
Second cruise line announces plans to call on Prince Rupert in 2013
Silversea schedules stops in Prince Rupert
Luxury cruise line scheduled to call on Prince Rupert in 2013

You can examine other tourism related items from our Tourism Archives page

Coastal Ferries Consultation set to begin

The province of British Columbia is about to launch a nearly two month long consultation process into the long-term sustainability of the provinces coastal transportation network.

The public sessions get underway on November 6th in Sandspit, where a three hour open house is planned for the Sandsipt Community Centre, other sessions are planned for Haida Gwaii in Queen Charlotte City on November 7th and in Masset on November 8th.

The consultations then move across Hecate Strait with a two hour  Small Group Meeting session planned for Prince Rupert at the North Coast Convention Centre on November 9th.

The remainder of the schedule will go up and down the coast from Victoria to Port Hardy and many communities in between, on both the west and east sides of the Strait of Georgia.

Some background on the sessions can be found from the website dedicated to their efforts, it includes a comprehensive schedule of all the sessions and their locations.

The province is seeking solutions to the challenge of the running the ferry service, considering ways to make the service more financially self sufficient, a process that among other prospects, would seem to include the reduction of some runs up and down the coast.

BC Ferries is facing a crisis situation with higher costs, lower ridership and what seems to be an unsustainable financial picture.

So far BC Ferries has chopped 15 million dollars in costs and service cuts, but still needs to revisit all of their financial options.

One thing that seems certain, just injecting more provincial cash into the service isn't in the future, at least that's what one can glean from the final comment of the Documents and FAQ section of the consultation's web page, which offers up this telling Q and A :

Why doesn't the provincial government add an additional $26 million? 

There is a need to address the $26 million shortfall, the system overall is facing rising costs and declining ridership. Even with financial support, the service cannot continue at its present level or current prices without a significant adjustment.

Of particular interest to residents of the North Coast and Haida Gwaii will be the current financials on routes that run from Prince Rupert, Port Hardy and Skidegate, the northern runs are the most expensive of all the routes currently in place with BC Ferries, with losses of 28.6 million on the Port Hardy to Prince Rupert route and 24.2 million on the Prince Rupert to Skidegate run.

The two northern routes are not alone,  only two main routes to the south turn a profit, all other runs on the BC Ferry schedule lose money and run at far less than capacity. The Prince Rupert to Port Hardy run for instance only runs at a 40 percent capacity and features a subsidy of over 2,000 dollars per vehicle.

They are all routes that clearly can't be financed at the same level of service, on a fare based prospect alone.

Key to the discussions will be the ability of local users, residents and politicians to impress upon the consultation  panel of the importance to the region of ferry transportation and the need to find a financial blue print that allows that service to remain a vibrant part of the transportation network of the north.

For those that can't attend the public sessions, the Consultation process has made allowances for submissions by Internet, you can weigh into the discussion from this link.

The CBC provided a helpful backgrounder on the purpose of these sessions, which you can view below.

Some other reaction and background on the consultation process can be found below.

The Tyee-- BC Government asking public where to cut ferry service
QCIobserver-- Government begins open consultation on future of coastal ferries
Vancouver Sun-- BC Ferries riders asked for ideas of most pain-free cuts to aid money losing service
Victoria Times-Colonist-- B. C. Ferries studies which routes to cut
CBC.ca-- BC Ferries public hearings to focus on costs, services
CTVBC.ca-- Province seeks public input on BC Ferries

Petronas to extend takeover bid for Progress Energy

PETRONAS Canada intends to make further submissions to the Minister in order to obtain approval of the proposed transaction. -- The key point from a Petronas media release on the subject of the Petronas takeover bid on Progress Energy

The local hand wringing over the potential demise of the proposed Petronas LNG Terminal for Prince Rupert will have to be held off for another month at least and in the end may have been a premature bit of angst after all.

Yesterday, the Malaysian Energy giant announced that it was extending its deadline for the takeover of Progress Energy, making plans to revise its bid and had plans to re-submit their proposal to Ottawa in hopes to bring to a successful conclusion to their 6 billion dollar deal.

The sticking point for Petronas will be to provide evidence to the Canadian government that the takeover of Progress would be of "net benefit" to the nation.

The rejection by the Federal government last week, rumbled across the energy sector, with the impact reaching all the way to Prince Rupert, where the potential of an LNG Terminal from Petronas has caught the imagination of Rupertites.

The potential of that deal falling through left many fearful that the large industrial project for just off Ridley Island was at risk, reflective in some of the stories from the local media at the time.

You can review some of the reviews of the initial announcement of the takeover's rejection here.

The new date of note for local LNG watchers will November 30th, when the new Petronas deadline takes effect and even that one may not be cast in stone, as Petronas has advised that it could be extended twice more.

The impression that seems to be percolating with the latest developments is that Petronas is anxious to close the deal and will work towards that result, seeking to reassure Ottawa as to its intentions and outlining the benefits that the energy giant could provide as per Ottawa's request.

Some of the background on the latest move by Petronas can be found below.

Our full archive on LNG development on the North Coast can be found here.

Financial Times-- Petronas extends deadline for Progress bid
National Post-- Petronas extends takeover bid for Progress in hopes of winning approval
National Post-- Market still has faith in Progress-Petronas deal
Calgary Herald-- Petronas extends takeover bid for Progress Energy in hopes of winning approval
CBC-- Petronas extends Progress Energy takeover offer
Asia One-- Petronas to renew Progress bid

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Haida Gwaii Rumbler for Monday night

The plates under Haida Gwaii did a little more re-arranging on Monday night, as a 6.2 earthquake struck the Islands in much the same location as Saturday nights major temblor of 7.7.

Haida Gwaii had been feeling the after shocks of that Saturday night quake for much of the last two days, with most of the after shocks registering in the 4.0 to 5.3 range.

Monday night's quake struck at 7:49 and was a noticeable bump up in the intensity level, though the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre was quick to issue a notice that no tsunami was expected from the event.

The USGS listing of earthquakes can be found here.
Our Archive of seismic events can be found here.

CBC Daybreak North-- Earthquake dries up Haida Gwaii's Hot Spring Island (audio)
CBC Daybreak North-- Seismologist answers questions about Haida Gwaii aftershocks (audio)
CBC News-- 6.2 quake rattles B. C. coast
CBC Daybreak North-- "If there had been a tsunami... the people of Masset would not have survived" (audio)
Sit News-- 7.7 magnitude quake grabs Ketchikan's attention
The Northern View-- What would have happened?
The Northern View-- Roads, cell service among MP's concerns for emergencies on Haida Gwaii 
The Northern View-- Magnitude 6.2 aftershock recorded as earth around Haida Gwaii continues...
Reuters-- Shallow 6.3 quake off west Canada coast: USGS
CKWX 1130-- Another Powerful earthquake hits Haida Gwaii
Vancouver Sun-- 6.2 M earthquake recorded off Haida Gwaii, no tsunami alert issued
CFTK-- Aftershocks Continue to Rumble Under Haida Gwaii
CFTK-- Questions Raised Over Provincial Earthquake Response
CFTK-- MP notes Infrastructure shortfalls on Haida Gwaii
CFTK-- Fire Chiefs tell residents to be Earthquake Ready
CFTK-- Emergency Preparedness (video)

Rampage gain split in weekend play

The Prince Rupert Rampage picked up their first win of the 2012-13 CIHL season on Friday night as the Rampage topped the Terrace River Kings with a 5-4 shoot out decision at the Terrace Sportsplex.

The Rampage battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the Friday night game, with two regulation time goals from Kory Movald and single markers from Justin Fontaine  and Josh Kierce bringing the Rampage even after sixty minutes.

In the Overtime session, the Rampage relied on Kory Movald and Jared Meers to secure their first win of the season. Keano Wilson gained the Win for the Rampage in the nets facing 34 shots on the night and holding off the River Kings in the Shoot Out.

Saturday provided for another close game for the Rampage, but the trip into Kitimat did not work out quite as well for the visiting squad, though it did take a shoot out for the home Ice Demons to claim the  3-2 victory.

First period goals from Josh Kierce and Kory Movald gave the Rampage the lead heading into the third period, the Ice Demons however pulled even early on in the third period and from the there the two teams battled to a draw leading to the second shoot out session of the weekend for the Rampage.

The shoot out session went four deep with Kory Movald picking up the only marker for the Ramapge, Kitimat claimed victory on their fourth shot of the shoot out, puttng the winning goal behind Keano Wilson.

Wilson made 21 save on 23 shots in regulation time as the game played out, marking the end of the team's month long extended road trip.

The weekend split moves the Rampage into a second place tie with the River Kings in the Western Division.

The Rampage have the week off and next  return to action with their home ice debut on November 10th, when the Kitimat Ice Demons mark the first game of the year at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.

You can review all of our Rampage coverage from our Rampage Archives

The Mayor adds Canadian National to his invitation list

The waning moments of last Monday's city council meeting once again featured the Mayor's report to council, a session where Mayor Jack Mussallem offers up an account of some of his recent activities on the city's behalf and shares some of his observations on topics of note to council.

The last few months of these sessions have at times turned into an opportunity to vent over recent developments and seek out further clarification of some outstanding issues from such community partners as the Port of Prince Rupert and Northwest Community College.

On that to do list Council crossed off the Port Corporation last week, with the hour long presentation and question and answer period over the Pinnacle Pellet Project. A discussion that clearly showcased some of Council's frustration over Industrial developments that for the most part seem pretty well beyond their control.

The request of an appearance from Northwest Community College hasn't to our research provided for any public question and answer session to this point.  At the time of the Mayor's request, Council had expressed a concern over the relocation of the electrical program at the Prince Rupert campus to Terrace.

Unless we missed a public council presentation over the last few months, it would appear that college officials have yet to have made the trip to Rupert to reassure the Mayor and Council as to the larger issues of post secondary education in the community.

So while they await the College to respond to the RSVP, the Mayor is turning his attention to the issue of Canadian National Railways and their recent and rather contentious moves on the railyard portion of the waterfront.

At Monday's meeting he advised city staff to seek clarification on the waterfront access issues and extend an invitation to CN to clarify out standing concerns or as the Mayor put it "about being a corporate member of the community".

You can review Council's thoughts on the issue from the city's video archive of the October 23rd session, the CN discussion starts at the 2 hour, thirty six minute mark.

One imagines that considering the reaction of the public over the recent developments on the waterfront west of Kwinitsa, that a Q and A session with CN might be rather interesting to tune into.

Aftershocks from Saturday night's 7.7 earthquake continue along Haida Gwaii

24 Hours after Saturday night's 7.7 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Haida Gwaii, the Islands continue to feel the after affects, with more than 50 after shocks rumbling across the islands since the large temblor hit.

The range of the major after shocks went from 4.0 to a high of 6.3 the latter rattling nerves shortly before the noon hour on Sunday.

In addition to those after shocks, two earth quakes were felt further to the east of the initial cluster, moving into the Hecate Strait side of the Islands, where  two shocks registering 4.1 were recorded in mid Sunday afternoon (see here and here).

There were numerous other after shocks of less intensity, which perhaps takes the amount of seismic activity in the region beyond the 100 incident mark in just the last 24 hours.

Needless to say, the events of Saturday night pretty well dominated conversation across the region, with no shortage of Ruperties finding their words dispatched to media outlets across British Columbia and further afield in North America.

Councillor Kinney's commentary of Saturday night for the Vancouver Province on the nature of the earthquake received a reprise on the Global BC News website (view here), while  some video of local residents commenting on the events of the night were also posted to the Global site (view here)

Newspapers across North America picked up a variety of stories from the North coast, a television station in Minnesota providing some quotes from a variety of local residents, including the City of Prince Rupert's Rudy Kelly.

The Prince Rupert based Northern View also had some background on Saturday's quake and the aftershocks that have followed.

The Vancouver Sun featured comments from a wider range of British Columbians stretching from Haida Gwaii through to the BC Interior.

Sunday night the CBC National News turned its attention to the day after the large seismic event on Haida Gwaii, sending Alan Waterman to Prince Rupert to gauge the level of concern from Saturday's quake.

Waterman talked with Prince Rupert Fire Chief Dave McKenzie, who outlined how communications lines at times became congested as people took to their cel phones and devices to seek out further information.

The Port's Michael Gurney was featured on the topic of the closure of operations at the Port's facilities both on the waterfront and at Ridley Island, while other citizens offered up some of their thoughts in the usual person in the street interviews that take place at these times.

Some of whom expressed concern over the lack of information in the city regarding the emergency and how they scrambled to try and find out anything about the earthquake and the potential for a tsunami.

CBC Anchor Wendy Mesley picked up on that theme with some tough questioning of the Emergency  Management spokesperson, wondering why American residents had been warned of the potential of a tsunami a full hour before Canadian officials outlined the risk.

The Emergency Management spokesperson offered up the thought that the provincial agency was pleased overall with the response to the incident, suggesting that the actual event of the earthquake was in effect the warning, with residents expected to "drop, cover, Hold on and then move to higher ground when safe".

That talking point didn't seem to reassure Ms. Wesley who again sought further information on the procedure in place for notification, wrapping up what appeared to be a rather uncomfortable interview with the question if anything was learned from Saturday night's event.

Judging by her reaction to the answer, Ms. Wesley once again she didn't seem particularly reassured that the Emergency Measures Organization understood her concern on the issue and timeline of the notification.

You can view the entire Newscast from this link to the CBC website, the earthquake review starts at the eight minute, forty second mark

That theme of notification and response to the incident would again come up on the CTV Late Night News out of Vancouver, where a string of reports from Masset, Tofino and Port Alberni outlined the activities in those communities during the situation.

Tofino seemingly is the only community that utilizes an emergency siren system, with the sirens alerting their residents to seek out higher ground as the warning of a potential tsunami was received.

Port Alberni which apparently has the sirens, did not however activate their sirens on Saturday, despite the history that community has had with tsunami's, in particular the large Alaskan quake of 1964 which sent water rushing up the inlet into their community causing widespread damage.

The CTV BC coverage can be found here, here, here and here.

The topic of alerts and emergency information delivery may make for an interesting discussion in Prince Rupert in the days following Saturday's event, Prince Rupert once had sirens in place for such things, rarely used as they were, they were disconnected and taken down a number of years ago.

Considering the concern over the events of the weekend, sirens and other forms of communicating important notices may become a popular talking point again in the city.

Especially if the after shocks, which are expected to continue through the week, continue to provide for the occasional jolt or bump in the night.

Other items from our coverage of the 7.7 earthquake on Haida Gwaii can be found here.

Update: Local media outlets had some further information about Saturday night's Haida Gwaii quake.

The Northern View-- Lack of warning worries Prince Rupert
CBC Daybreak North-- After the Earthquake: questions and surprise (audio) (video)
CFTK-- Rupert Earthquake Damage (video)
CFTK-- Haida Gwaii Earthquake Reax (video)
CFTK-- CMSD Quake Checks (video)
KRBD Ketchikan-- Southeast responds to Tsunami warning
KRBD Ketchikan-- Large Quake hits B. C., POW outer coast warned

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Haida Gwaii rocked by 7.7 earthquake

The strongest earthquake to strike Canada in 60 years rumbled across Haida Gwaii, the North Coast and into the Northern Interior on Saturday night, as a 7.7 magnitude quake struck at four minutes after 8  PM.

The large scale quake rattle a few dishes, as well as a few nerves in Prince Rupert and around the region, but remarkably in the case of Haida Gwaii which was the centre of the seismic event Saturday, little in the way of any serious damage had been reported in the hours that followed the temblor.

Power went out temporarily in some regions of Haida Gwaii, but no power outages or other concerns were reported from other communities across Northwestern British Columbia or Alaska.

The epicentre of the quake struck 139 kilometres south of Masset on Haida Gwaii, with seismic waves rumbling across the northern parts of the province and into Alaska, the magnitude of the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami warnings that were put in place led officials across the region to activated their Emergency Operations centres.

With fears of a potential tsunami wave arriving on the shores of Prince Rupert, local officials had advised residents of areas close to the waterfront to  head towards higher ground, basically at five corners (Park Avenue/2nd Avenue West) in the west and 6th Avenue East and Drydock road to the East.

Likewise, people in the at risk areas such as the waterfront, marinas and floats of the region were advised to move to the higher elevations. At times, those instructions resulted in heavy traffic in areas at those higher elevations as people made their way up towards the Roosevelt Park/Hospital area.

As a precaution the Port of Prince Rupert suspended operations at all of its industrial terminals both at Fairview and at Ridley Island.

As the evening progressed the threat of a tsunami causing concern in Prince Rupert eased and by 11 PM, the City had closed it's Command Centre at City Hall advising that any significant arrival of waves was not expected.

The tsunami warning was downgraded to an advisory shortly before the midnight hour. Some of the reported wave measurements were 28 to 44 centimetres along the coast, as the warnings were downgraded along coastal British Columbia, officials in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for the Islands.

With the official work out of the way on the night, Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem became a popular media subject on Saturday night, making appearances on the major British Columbia networks such as CBC and Global, as well as with local media sources.

Attorney General and Justice Minister Shirley Bond held a conference call late Saturday evening,  providing an update on the latest information regarding the earthquake and events that followed it, a recording of it is available here.

For the most part, the main conduit of information seemed to be through a variety of social media outlets, with twitter feeds and facebook pages jumping to life shortly after the quake struck.

Since the 7.7 event on Haida Gwaii there were close to fourteen after shocks recorded up to the midnight hour, ranging anywhere from 4.0 to 5.8 in magnitude.   More aftershocks were anticipated over the  course of the next few days as the earth settles from Saturday's excitement.

The USGS offers a useful website detailing all of the seismic activity around the world, which on Saturday and into Sunday morning featured quite a few reports from Haida Gwaii.

Saturday's earthquake struck in much the same area as the 8.1 temblor of 1949, joined now by Saturday nights quake as a reminder of the always active fault lines of the North Pacific region.

Environment Canada Tsunami Advisory

Items of note from a variety of media sources can be found below.

QCI Observer-- Big earthquake south of Sandspit shakes Haida Gwaii
The Northern View-- 7.7 magnitude earthquake hits 139 km south of Masset, Prince Rupert deemed safe
CFTK-- No serious Damage Report from Strong Earthquake
CFTK-- Tsunami warning Downgraded to Advisory
CFTK-- Precautionary Evacuations at Prince Rupert Port
CFTK-- Earthquake Strikes Haida Gwaii
Terrace Standard-- Earthquake off Haida Gwaii
Terrace Standard-- Tsunami warning issued
Opinion 250-- Earthquake Shakes Northern B. C.
Opinion 250-- Residents Moved to 5 Corners in Prince Rupert After 7.7 Earthquake Hits
Opinion 250-- Parts of Tofino Evacuated as Precaution After Earthquake
Opinion 250-- No Major Damage Reported From Massive Quake
Opinion 250-- 1800 People Evacuated At Masset
Vancouver Sun-- 7.7 earthquake hits Haida Gwaii Region, Tsunami warning downgraded to advisory
Vancouver Province-- 'Our hearts are still beating fast 'Magnitude 7.7 quake recorded off Haida Gwaii
CBC.ca-- Small tsunami waves hit B. C. after 7.7 quake
CBC.ca-- Live Blog of post earthquake period
CTVBC-- Tsunami warnings downgraded after B. C. coastal quake
Global BC-- 7.7 earthquake strikes off coast of Prince Rupert (video)
Global BC-- 7.7 quake shakes B. C. coast sets off Tsunami advisories from Alaska to Victoria
Globe and Mail-- Evacuations in B. C. after quake sparks tsunami warning
National Post-- Tsunami warning issued after 7.7 magnitude earthquake strikes off B. C. coast

Friday, October 26, 2012

City Council jumps on the "Stop the Greyhound Cuts" bus

Like other communities along Highway 16, the City of Prince Rupert has lent its voice to try and influence the British Columbia Transportation Board as it ponders the request by Greyhound Bus Lines to reduce service on the Highway 16 route from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

Council discussed the issue at Monday night's session (2 hour, 21 minute mark to 2 hour 24 minute mark)

The service reduction request was first made by Greyhound in September, since then it has been the subject of debate across Northern British Columbia, as communities offer their input to the request.

Greyhound has presented its case for reducing the service, outlining how usage of the route is low and not economically feasible in its current schedule configuration.

Communities already alarmed at the lack of transportation resources in the region, would prefer if Greyhound at least kept the current schedule in effect.

The bus line however, may be getting worried about discussion along the Highway 16 corridor of creating a shuttle bus service to serve communities in the wake of concerns over the Highway of Tears and the recent initiative of Smithers council to create such a service.

Should that service be created, or increased access to the Northern Health Medical Travel Service be created, the prospect of less Greyhound service, as opposed to more, would seem likely.

A solution to both issues could be to have each community have a block of tickets for Greyhound trips on hand for distribution for those in need. That could offer up an alternative to the issue of at risk hitch hiking, as well as created an increased level of passenger traffic and revenue for the bus line.

More background on the issue can be found from our Transportation archives.

Rampage on road again, seeking first win of the season

It's back on the bus for members of the Prince Rupert Rampage, the teams early season road travels continue this weekend, starting with a trip to Terrace tonight for a CIHL match up with the River Kings.

The Rampage will be looking to turn around their struggles thus far in the year, which have seen the local side surrender 22 goals in their first three games. Results which leave the Rampage trailing both Kitimat and Terrace in the CHIL's West Division.

Tonight's game in Terrace has an 8 pm puck drop and is the first of a two game road trip for the Rupert squad, they travel to Kitimat on Saturday for a game with the Ice Demons which also has an 8 PM start.

That one marks the end of what has seemed like an endless road trip for the Rampage, who were forced out of their home rink the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre earlier this month owing to arena ice issues.

With the ice now back in at the Civic Centre, the Rampage will finally get a home date at the Jim, when the Kitimat Ice Demons come to town   on November 10th.

With a bit of puck luck over this weekend, they'll have climbed a little closer to a .500 record by the time Kitimat comes to town.

You can review all our Rampage material from our Rampage archive page

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Snowfall makes for treacherous road conditions for parts of Northern BC

A taste of winter like conditions arrived in Northern British Columbia Thursday, with snowfall making travel hazardous along much of the Highway 16 corridor from Houston on into the Interior.

A portion of Highway 16 (from Houston to Burns Lake) was closed for part of Thursday as authorities dealt with a motor vehicle incident. The region from Houston east was reporting black ice and snow accumulations through the evening,  a situation which contributed to the poor driving conditions on the evening.

By 10 PM, traffic had been allowed to travel once again, though in only a single lane, alternating fashion.

Further east the early snow made for a rough day of it in the regions largest city, as travellers in and around Prince George had troubles reclaiming their winter driving skills.  Prince George RCMP were called to a number of incidents making note of a number of vehicles not quite ready for winter driving.

Conditions may be in flux for most of the weekend as a weather system moves onshore, with rain anticipated for Prince Rupert  for the next number of days.  Further Eastbound Snow, 10 cm or more on Saturday,  is expected for communities from Terrace on to Prince George.

Prince Rupert Forecast
Terrace Forecast
Smithers Forecast
Prince George Forecast

Updates on travel conditions across Northwestern British Columbia can be obtained from the Drive BC website.

Prince Rupert RCMP make marijuana grow op seizure on Overlook Street

With the town still talking about the significant seizure of chemicals this week by the CBSA at Fairview Terminals, the Prince Rupert detachment of the RCMP had an update of their own to make regarding drug enforcement efforts in the city.

Thursday, the RCMP outlined the details of the execution of a warrant Wednesday evening, that resulted in the seizure of 135 marijuana plants and the taking into custody of a Prince Rupert resident.

Members of the Prince Rupert RCMP's General Investigation and Crime Reduction Units conducted the investigation and executed the warrant at a residence in the 1300 block of Overlook Street.

The investigation of Wednesday marks the second search warrant executed this month into marijuana grow operations in the city.

The previous investigation took place on October 2nd, in the 800 block of Comox Avenue in the city.

Details of the Wednesday night operation were provided to the Northern View in this contributed release.

Lax Kw'alaams fish plant offers employment and hope to community

While Prince Rupert watches a good portion of its past fade from the waterfront, in the form of closed fish plants. To the north of the city, up in Lax Kw'alaams, the future it would seem is with the fishery and the recently opened "state of the art" fish plant that will process ground fish on almost a year round basis.

The first fish were delivered to the Coast Tsimshian Fish Plant earlier this week, bringing to the town employment and bringing to an end a twelve month construction period to provide for one of the newest fish processing plants in the province.

The plant which features the largest freezing facility on the coast, at the moment employs 60 workers, a number which could increase significantly when the spring and summer  peak fishing seasons arrive.

A prospect that considering the ongoing downsizing of the industry in Prince Rupert, has a number of former residents considering plans to return home.

In addition to the plant and employment it provides, the Coast Tsimshian have purchased a 24 metre trawler, as well as a ground fish quota. Assets that they believe will assist in making the plant successful.

The return of a fish processing operation to the town, is also spurring on thoughts of spin off development, which Lax Kw'alaams officials hope will further improve the economy of the town.

The Vancouver Sun provides a detailed background piece on the project and what it may bring to the community in the future.

Other media reports on the re-opening of the fish plant can be found below.

CFTK TV-- Lax Kw'alaams Open State of the Art Fish Plant
CFTK TV-- Lax Kw'alaams Fish Plant (video)

The home page for  Coast Tsimshian Seafood can be found here.

Previous items on the North coast fishery can be found from our Industrial Development Archives.

Prince Rupert Border Services Agents make major chemical seizure

"This seizure comes as welcome news for families and communities across Canada. I commend the CBSA on this significant seizure of precursor chemicals, and for successfully preventing harmful drugs from finding their way to our streets and communities." -- Statement from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on the announcment of a significant chemical seizure at Fairview Terminals

The efforts of the Prince Rupert office of the CBSA have taken a large volume of chemicals out of the hands of illegal drug manufacturers, after a major seizure at the Fairview Terminal.

The seizure of over 14 tonnes of precursor chemicals, which are used in such illegal drugs as methamphetamine, ecstasy and date rape drugs, was the largest confiscation of illegal chemicals in the port's history.

The chemicals were found in 552 jugs which had been shipped from China by container, the shipment had been disguised in shipping declarations as glycerin.

The success of the CBSA at Fairview Port is being heralded by the government as a significant step in the nation's Anti Drug Strategy, as outlined a statement from the Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Wednesday's announcement marked the third time that CBSA officers at Prince Rupert have intercepted chemical transits over the last two years.

As word spread of the major seizure at Farivew, a variety of news services picked up on the story.

CBSA Press Release (with photos)

The local newspaper the Northern View provided this submitted report to their website on Wednesday.

Some of the other reports from across North America can be found below.

Vancouver Province-- Prince Rupert border officers intercept 14 tonnes of chemicals used for making illegal drugs
Vancouver Sun-- Customs agents seize 14 tonnes of precursor chemicals in Prince Rupert
Global BC-- Customs agents seize 14 tonnes of precursor chemicals in Prince Rupert
24 Hours Vancouver-- Border officials seize 14 tonnes of drug chemicals
Toronto Sun-- Border authorities seize 14 tonnes of drug precursor chemicals
Prince George Citizen-- CBSA seizes 14 tonnes of drug chemicals in Prince Rupert
US Politics Today-- Public Safety Minister Vic Toews Congratulates Canada Border Services on a Significant Seizure of Precursor Chemicals

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

City Council hears annual CityWest presentation

Monday's marathon City Council session provided for the opportunity for CityWest to make its annual pilgrimage to Council Chambers offering up an update on the city owned communications company.

Led by Vice Chair Jack Payne, a delegation for CityWest management and board members sat around the council table as Mr. Payne provided for the State of the Company address for 2012.

Among those in attendance with the Vice Chair, were the CEO Bill Craig, CFO Chris Marett and Board members Steve Lake, Rhoda Witherly and Bruce Kerr.

Mr. Payne provided the overview of the company's affairs and the accomplishments and challenges that CityWest has had over the last year, which featured a number of points.

In his opening remarks, he advised that at the moment there are 46,676 customers of CityWest from Prince Rupert to Houston, putting CityWest as number two in the market with 32 per cent penetration of the area, compared to Telus which is the top provider in the region at 44 per cent.

With growth anticipated throughout the Northwest, CityWest hopes to be positioned to benefit from that increase in opportunity through the region.

The Vice Chair also reviewed some of the changes in the technology of the communications industry, and outlined the spectre of the increased competition now in place in the region. He also explained how consolidation among the major companies is changing the nature of the business.

Among the CityWest Accomplishments this year:

They have met the bandwidth challenge, offering a new service called Quantum that offers faster speeds and no caps on usage.

There is now labour certainty at CityWest with two new labour deals in place over the last year with IBEW, the union representing workers at CityWest.

CityWest has made Cable TV improvements, adding more content with the installation of a "super dish" at their head end location.

Opened a Kitimat office to increase their local presence in that community, in addition to the offices located in Prince Rupert and Terrace.

Among the challenges facing CityWest were desires to improve the customer service experience and the introduction of new services to the community.

The main concern however seems to be the mobile or cellular market.

A service which CityWest would appear to be ready to surrender on. 

Steve Lake took over this aspect of the presentation, offering up some insight into the impact of other national cellular providers in the market, as well as some technical information and the limitations of the current status of the CityWest mobile (cel) network. 

Advising that at this point the company can't justify any further investment into that facet of their operations and can't bring it up to anticipated demands today and in the future.

To that end, they are currently seeking potential partners for that service, in effect becoming an agent for a larger company offering mobile services. 

It's a situation that CityWest hopes to resolve in the near future.

Vice Chair Payne then continued on with his presentation, advising of some new opportunities for CityWest, a potential new Wi Fi service for the downtown and Cow Bay areas, hopefully to be up and running by tourist season of 2013.

It will be available for use to CityWest customers and be made available to others for purchase on a roaming fee for use basis.

The presentation once again pumped up the Quantum Internet service recently put in place at CityWest, improvement of technical delivery of services across the region and their desire to continue to improve the level of customer service through the company, eliminating the current voice mail system that is place.

Council members then were offered up the opportunity to ask a number of questions, though interestingly enough, none of those questions revolved around the financials.

In the course of the question period, there were no inquiries as to the current financial status of CityWest, no inquiries as to the annual dividend (which in the past has always been a much anticipated bit of news delivery), or other items of a financial concern to the taxpayers who after all, are the investors of the Company.

Instead, council members basically asked a number of low maintenance questions of their guests.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson inquired about the introduction of e billing, while Councillor Kinney reprised his annual concern over the lack of cel service along the highway to Terrace and Councillor Ashley asked if there were any improvements planned for access to information from CityWest.

To that end the CityWest panel pointed to their website, which apparently will soon feature a feedback section and perhaps even a process where the Chairman will take part in live time discussions sometime in the new year.

Councillor Thorkelson asked about bandwidth concerns for gaming and other heavy bandwidth users and Councillor Rice inquired about the prospects of providing "hot spot" signage along the highway advising if cel service is available in some areas.

Councillor Ashley offered up a revenue generating idea, something called the "spot checker" which might address the emergency access issues in regard to Councillor Kinney's highway concerns.

You can review the presentation from the city's audio archive of the council meeting the CityWest review runs from 1 hour 14 minute portion to 1 hour 45 minute mark.

Our past items on communcation across the Northwest can be found in our Archive section

Northwest avalanche claims the life of a Smithers area man

The first reported avalanche of the fall season has resulted in the tragic news of the death of a Smithers man working near the Stewart area.

A two man crew working on a surveying project at a Minerals Camp north of Stewart was swept away by an avalanche on Tuesday.

One of the men was able to free himself from the avalanche and sought out the assistance of crews from a neighbouring work camp to search out for his missing co worker.

The 50 year old male had been swept over a 300 meter cliff, where he was found deceased.

The incident has been turned over to the BC Coroners Service for further investigation.

CFTK TV-- Man Killed in Avalanche North of Stewart
Terrace Standard-- Avalanche claims life
CBC.ca-- Fatal B. C. avalanche sweeps surveyor over cliff

Update: The name and hometown of the victim has been released by authorities

CFTK TV-- Avalanche Victim Identified
Opinion 250-- Avalanche Victim Identified

City Council members ask many questions of Port representatives over Pinnacle Pellet Project

As we mentioned over the weekend, Monday's City council session was destined to be one of the more interesting of gatherings of late, with a number of delegations making presentations to Council.

Among the most anticipated of the evenings entertainment, was a review of the Pinnacle Pellet Plant project courtesy of the Port of Prince Rupert.

Responding to a request to appear, originally issued by Councillor Joy Thorkelson a few months ago, the Port of Prince Rupert made a presentation to Council updating the process and progress of the Pinnacle Pellet Plant project.

The Port sent two representatives to Council Chambers for the update, a session which accounted for  over 1 hour, of the nearly 3 hour council session.

Offered up to the eager councillors for the  hour long research session were Andy Cook and Ken Veldman, who faced a number of inquiries from council members  about the contentious project on the west side of the city.

After about a twelve minute technical explanation of what is planned for the development by Andy Cook, the Mayor turned the forum over to the city Councillors.

Leading off the question period was Councillor Carlick-Pearson with questions about the construction phase and impact on the neighbourhood, followed up by Councillor Thorkelson who focused on who was responsible for the mitigation process and if the Port is in charge of enforcing issues of concern with Pinnacle.

Councillor Thorkelson also had issues over perceived "flippant" remarks in the past on other Port Projects, seeking clarification on the chain of complaint should people have concerns on the latest development.

Councillor Rice followed up on Councillor Thorkelson's concerns and as might be expected, the environment was high on her agenda for discussion. Seeking out clarification of the Environmental Assessment of the Port compared to what Federal Environmental Assessments might have in place.

Councillor Rice also had questions on employment levels at the Pinnacle Plant upon completion and operation.

Councillor Garon took over the questioning from Councillor Rice seeking clarification on the method of use for monitoring equipment regarding the site and how it will track any dust issues from the project.

Councillor Ashley had issues on the monitoring process as well, asking whether the Port will be keeping the lines of communication open between the development and the city. She also had bylaw and safety concerns over the project, particularly regarding the noise bylaw and how the turn around time of the vessels calling on the plant may impact on that.

She also had concerns over the presentation phase of the Pinnacle project and the perception of promises that "were made" regarding the model presented, a prospectus which featured a waterfront walk for the area near the Pinnacle Plant.

While the Port couldn't offer up any kind of answer on the Pinnacle sketches, that question offered up the chance for Ken Veldman to provide an update on the Port's vision for waterfront access for the public in the city, which seems focused east of Kwinitsa.

Councillor Kinney followed up with his thoughts on the project, expressing confidence that safety concerns will be addressed by the Port and welcoming the prospect of further development in the city which will lessen the tax requirements on the city's residents.

The conversation then circled the Council chambers again with Councillors Rice and Thorkelson putting forward their final thoughts on accountability from the Port to the residents of the city.

The Mayor brought an end to the lengthy interrogation, thanking the pair for their time and information provided, advising that they were welcome to stick around for the public input section of the council session.

You can review the wide ranging discussion from the city's website coverage of the proceedings. ( you can listen to the audio feed here, the video feed has yet to be posted to the city's website)

The opening statements from the Port begin at the 1:45 mark, running to about the 13 minute mark.

The Q and A from the councillors picks up the remainder of the session from 13 minutes to about 1 hour and 9 minute mark.

You can also review our archive material on the Pinnacle Pellet Plant, which can be found here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Selling the merits of the Port of Prince Rupert and the vision of its future

For those wondering how the Port of Prince Rupert gets its vision across to would be customers, an instructive video has been posted to  the website of the Transportation trade publication The Journal of Commerce.

Featuring the Port of Prince Rupert's President and CEO Don Krusel, the report provides a glimpse into some of the questions and issues that may face Port representatives as they go about selling the merits of the Port to world shipping companies and end users.

Such things as transit times, dwell times, bottlenecks in Chicago and other transportation and logistical questions make up the main talking points when it comes time for someone to decide where to unload their containers, questions that the Port of Prince Rupert seems to have all the right answers for.

The interview session recorded at the Trans Pacific Maritime Conference of 2009, touches on a number of questions about the Port and some of the perceived issues surrounding the Port, the video Q and A session helps give us a better understanding as to how the Port is being marketed to the world.

Journal of Commerce--- Don Krusel, Prince Rupert Port Authority (video)

Rupertites take to Court House Lawn in Northern Gateway Protest

A small, but vocal group of protesters joined other like minded British Columbians across the province on Monday, protesting the concept of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Prince Rupert protest which brought environmental activists and local union members together, took place at the noon hour in front of the Prince Rupert Court House, the lunch hour protest featured speeches from City Councillor Jennifer Rice and local labour leaders.

Councillor Rice, is considered by many to be the eventual nominee for the NDP in the upcoming Provincial election in 2013, expected to take over the torch for the NDP from the outgoing MLA Gary Coons.

The Northern Gateway project and the support of those that oppose has been a popular topic with the outgoing MLA over the last few years, a cause that Councillors Rice and Thorkelson have taken up as their own as well at Council and beyond.

Among those joining in on the protest were members of the Prince Rupert  District Teachers Union and the United Fish and Allied Workers Union. Protesters solicited support from passers by, receiving some honks of approval from some and occasional indifference from others.

The Prince Rupert protest was one of a number in BC on Monday, with the main protest venue and the largest of the crowds taking place in Victoria on the lawn of the Legislature.

CFTK TV-- Rupert Tanker Rally (video)
CFTK TV-- Battle Against Northern Gateway Heats Up
The Northern View-- Enbridge Opponents rally in Prince Rupert
CBC.ca-- Thousands protest against pipeline at B. C. legislature
Vancouver Province-- Thousands protest at B. C. Legislature
Vancouver Province-- Protesters to rally against Northern Gateway pipeline outside B. C. Legislature
Vancouver Sun-- Up to 1,000 Northern Gateway opponents expected to gather...
Opinion 250-- Protest Underway in Victoria

Some clouds on the LNG horizon

For the moment it seems, some of that bubbling euphoria over LNG terminal development on the North Coast seems to have come crashing to earth.

Over the weekend, Christian Paradis, the Minister of Industry turned down a takeover bid of Canadian based Progress Energy Resources Corporation by the Malaysian Oil and Gas Giant Petronas.

The Minister's announcement, issued late into the evening on Friday (a time frame that has more than a few observers shaking their heads at how things are done in Ottawa) had repercussions on oil and gas stocks on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

The decision also seems to have sent the  local newspaper the Northern View to hit the Klaxon horn with  thoughts that one of the proposed LNG projects for Prince Rupert could be in great peril.

The Northern View, complete with a most alarming headline, offered up a sense of foreboding over the project's future, reinforcing the potential loss of future jobs that could come from the governments  midnight hour, last minute decision.

As of yet however, no official word has been issued from the Progress/Petronas group as to the fate of the proposed local project. Officials there perhaps a tad busy taking a second look at their proposal and how it may be revised to provide reassurances to Ottawa over the seemingly contentious sticking point of "net benefit".

In fact, signs from Ottawa indicate that the process continues on, the Petronas deal perhaps not quite as dead as previously thought.

The Federal Government has advised Petronas officials to revisit their proposal and offer up an amended vision within 30 days.

Some background on the decision to refuse the takeover bid however may prove helpful to the overall picture, a review of the weekend decision offering a bit of balance and perhaps some thoughts on where things may go from here can be found below.

Calgary Herald-- Ottawa will approve $5.2B Petronas-Progress takeover
National Post-- Petronas deal on hold, not dead
National Post-- Blockage of Petronas-Progress deal sends ripples through oil patch
National Post-- Petronas-Progress to meet Investment Canada officials 'to better understand' rules
National Post-- Progress CEO optimistic Petronas deal will go forward
National Post-- Top 4 takeaways from the Petronas- Progress decision
Financial Times-- Canada, Petronas-Progress and Cnooc-Nexen: the bright side
Vancouver Sun-- BC Energy Minister mystified after Ottawa nixes key takeover ...
Vancouver Sun-- Progress shares tumble after Christian Paradis nixes Petronas deal
Vancouver Sun-- Canada blocks $5.2 billion Petronas-Progress deal 
Vancouver Sun-- Rejection of Petronas' bid reveals why we need to abolish test of "net benefit"
Macleans-- Petronas, Petronas, Petronas
Macleans-- Petronas and everything after
Ottawa Citizen-- Stephen Harper sheds no light on why Ottawa spiked Petronas deal, promises clarity soon
Ottawa Citizen-- Take a deep breath on Progress deal
CBC.ca-- Harper defends Patronas decision, vows new investment rules
CBC.ca-- Energy company upset feds blocked Malaysian takeover
CTV News-- Foreign direct investment must benefit Canada: Flaherty
Channel News Asia-- Malaysia's Petronas to appeal against Canadian decision
Channel News Asia-- Petronas will continue to pursue deals in Canada: Malaysia trade minister

For a review of the local aspects of the Petronas LNG project, check our LNG Development Archives