PORT McNEILL—The recent arrival of a huge loading dock in the local small-craft harbour turned an otherwise quiet council meeting into a lively debate.
Several local businessmen took advantage of the public comment period following the Mar. 5 meeting to object to the placement of the dock, which was approved five years ago as part of a larger improvement project.
“This is not gonna work for the summer,” said Steve Jackman, of CAB Industrial Automotive and proprietor of the fuel dock located adjacent to the new concrete loading dock.
“At low tide that’s gonna shut down our boat launch for about four hours a day.”
Jackman and Craig Murray, who owns Nimmo Bay Resort and ships goods from Port McNeill, are concerned the placement of the dock will also inhibit barge loading and unloading and create a navigational hazard for smaller craft attempting to access or depart their moorage when the afternoon westerlies blow in summer.
They argued council should postpone permanent placement of the dock for a year until additional changes are made to accommodate the huge structure, and Jackman said a $5,000 penalty to remove the dock before piles are driven will be cheaper than the long-term costs of forcing businesses and visiting recreational boats to other ports due to congestion this summer. And he was willing to put his money where his mouth is.
“I’m not saying I’m against the plan, but the more we just go ahead with this right away, the more expensive it’s gonna go,” Jackman said.
“We can quote out for $5,000 right now, I’ll write you a cheque for $3,000 to cover half. No problem. Let’s come up with a plan that works.”
Council was sympathetic to the views of the businessmen, but is constrained by the fact Small Craft Harbours is administered by the federal government.
“I think you address something that’s been talked around this table lots of times,” said deputy Mayor Shirley Ackland, who chaired the meeting in Gerry Furney’s absence.
“The issue we’re looking at is there are three water lots there, and where this is parked right now is not ours. It is federal.”
The dock, paid for by federal funds, was established as a need for the harbour in 2007, when that council approved the five-year harbour improvement plan. It will provide drive-on access for the loading and unloading of goods as well as potentially benefitting oceanic researchers, the RCMP, medical patients and others.
“We’re all in favour of an offloading and unloading facility,” said Murray. “But currently it’s badly positioned, and waiting a year (to change it) is going to cost you big-time.”
Public Works foreman Glen Boyd toured the docks with Coun. Chris Sharpe Saturday, and noted the inner dock would be cut back 20 feet
Ackland said council will ask to meet with Small Craft Harbours engineer Mike Braim and consulting engineer Arvid Pedersen, and hopes to get input from local business.
“Rest assured, council will bring this up again,” said Ackland. “We’ll certainly ask businesses to plead their case as well to look at all our options. Because this thing will be in everyone’s face.”
At the moment, the loading dock is not even usable, since the ramp to shore has not been placed or even delivered to the area.
“As it stands, you can’t access it nohow,” said Murray. “When is the ramp going to be put in place for this dock? Now, if we don’t have plans for this when questioned, I would suggest this is a bad move.”