A Williams Lake forester is urging the business community and local politicians to lobby the provincial government, B.C. Hydro and the B.C. Utilities Commission to make it more affordable for companies to retrieve biomass fuel from the forest.
Speaking to the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce at its regular lunch meeting Thursday, Tsi Del Del Enterprises manager Philippe Theriault told members the move comes as Atlantic Power Corporation has been granted an amended permit to burn up to 50 per cent rail ties at its biomass-fired generating facility in Williams Lake.
For two years Theriault and Marcel Therrien ran a biomass grinding company in Williams Lake.
They put unemployed loggers to work grinding wood waste in the bush and sold it to the power plant when it was owned by Capital Power.
“We hauled 60,000 to 80,000 tons to the power plant,” Theriault said, noting at the time they were also grinding rail ties for the plant because the company had a permit to burn up to five per cent rail ties.
Theriault estimated 40 to 50 per cent of the timber logged in the Williams Lake timber supply area ends up as debris that is eventually burned.
In 2010, a senate committee visited Williams Lake, he recalled.
After seeing the infrastructure in place in Williams Lake, the committee said the city had it all.
The sawmills, the plywood plant, the pellet plant and the energy plant all fit together and would be the envy of cities across the country.
Back in the 1990s the community came together with the Cariboo Chilcotin Land Use Plan to keep forestry alive, Theriault reminded the chamber.
“I am here to stimulate the conversation,” he said.
“I am not a naysayer, but we are logging nearly as far as the Bella Coola hill and I see miles and miles of biomass. We need a place to sell it.”
Utilizing biomass is a strong business opportunity, he added.
“I want to stay in Williams Lake, too. We have the capacity, knowledge and fibre to have an alternative to rail ties.”
Kate Lines of the Downtown Williams Lake BIA told the chamber the BIA is actively supporting the Be Wise / Rail Ties movement.
“This is a group of concerned citizens who want to raise awareness about the rail tie burning in our community and are currently preparing an appeal in hopes of overturning the approval Atlantic Power received last month to burn rail ties up to 50 per cent,” she said.
The group is hosting an event in Boitanio Park Sunday, Oct. 2, around the issue from 2 to 5 p.m.