The company in charge of building the new Kootenay Lake ferry wants to assemble it on Nelson’s shore.
Western Pacific Marine, which has been contracted by the province to construct the $62.9-million replacement of the MV Balfour, has requested a two-year temporary use-permit from the City of Nelson to assemble the vessel on the empty Nelson Landing property just east of the Nelson bridge.
Graham Clarke, president of Western Pacific Marine, said the location makes the most sense for the project.
“It’s the best site, logistics, construction conditions, all things considered. …,” said Clarke. “It’s going to be a great public policy initiative for the region, and it’s something that Nelson can take pride in because we’re going to build it right there.”
The site will be on a portion of Crown land as well as at the far end of privately owned land once meant to be the Nelson Landing housing development, which never broke ground. Clarke said the ferry won’t be able to travel beneath the Nelson Bridge once completed, which rules out any sites on the west side of the city.
The private land isn’t zoned for the project, but Western Pacific Marine plans to circumvent that with the temporary-use permit that city council is expected to vote on at its Feb. 9 meeting.
But the proposal has already rankled residents of the adjacent neighbourhood.
In December, David Reaka moved into his new home at the end of Sproat Drive next to the empty site and assumed there would be nearby residential construction at some point.
But he didn’t expect a ferry to built in a place locals routinely use for recreation as well as an access to Red Sands Beach.
“I can’t see how local people wouldn’t be disturbed,” said Reaka. “They say they’re going to contain contamination? I’m extremely skeptical of that. I really am.”
City planner Sebastian Arcand told the Nelson Star there’s contamination at the proposed site, which was the former home of the Kootenay Forest Products mill, but remediation wouldn’t be necessary because no permanent structures are being built.
He added the company has told the city it won’t be manufacturing parts at the site, only assembling the ferry using a dry dock currently located in Balfour.
Peter Ward of Ward Engineering and Land Surveying Ltd. said a new path will also be built around the site so residents can still access Red Sands Beach. Ward also said no workers will be housed at the site, and assembly is mostly limited to welding and fabrication.
Verna Relkoff has lived on Sproat Drive about 13 years. She said she’s concerned about an increase of traffic on the street.
“It’s incredibly busy,” she said. “Someone should come down and spend a week and just look at the traffic down here. Walkers, people with their kids, people on bicycles, people with dogs, people jogging.”
Clarke said his company is sensitive to the nearby neighbourhood. The only road to the site is a residential street, but Clarke said traffic and noise concerns have already been accounted for.
“This won’t be an unusual impact,” he said. “It’s not like the trucks are going to be continuously running. They’re going to come occasionally with a block or a module, which will be assembled on the site in a dry dock, and the dry dock has sides to it. So those will block the sound transmission.”
The new ferry, which the province said will be fully electric by 2030, replaces the 67-year-old MV Balfour. Both the MV Balfour and the MV Osprey 2000 are run by Western Pacific Marine and run between terminals at Balfour and Kootenay Bay.
The Osprey 2000 was also assembled in the same area as the proposed site for the new ferry.
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