Mission council is taking steps to increase traffic on the Fraser River by amending its industrial general zone to include barge loading as a permitted use.
The move will take trucks off the roads, create more good paying jobs, and conform the existing properties that have barge loading facilities, said Mayor Ted Adlem, who directed staff to look into the issue last summer.
Mission banned barge loading along its waterfront in 2007, but five properties along the Fraser River were grandfathered. Two of those properties are located in the old industrial area of town and three are in Silverdale, but not all are operational. Currently, sawdust, coal and aggregate are being loaded onto barges from Mission.
“Towing with a tug boat is more environmentally friendly than running hundreds of trucks on the road,” said Adlem.
“It has been difficult for them to get financing when you’re dealing with (legal non-conforming) properties,” said Coun. Larry Nundal.
Coun. Nelson Tilbury agreed these property owners have been treated “poorly” and he would like to welcome back the ones who have left to invest in other communities.
When the new zoning is in place, any one with property from Hatzic to Silverdale along the river can apply, and council will look at each application individually. The proponent would still need environmental approvals from federal and provincial governments and go through a public hearing.
Ernie Catherwood, owner of Catherwood Towing in Hatzic, said reversing the barge loading ban is a positive move for business and he would be interested in seeking the new zoning.
In the last two weeks, Catherwood has had calls from people interested in transporting rocks and scrap iron along the river to other communities.
The problem, said Catherwood is “the north side of the river doesn’t have a whole bunch of deep water to develop a barge site.”
His own property is “almost landlocked” and would “take serious cash to develop it.”
However, he wouldn’t hesitate to make a business case.
Although reinstating barge loading operations will encourage some businesses like Catherwood’s to grow, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the change.
Fraser River Safari owner Jo-Anne Chadwick explained her tour boats, have to idle every time a tug boat and barge pass by on the river.
“These barges give off huge wakes,” she explained.
While she doesn’t want to stand in the way of anyone making money or improving the local economy, she is concerned about potential harm to the environment.
“You can’t do everything you want to do without messing something up. I hope people are mindful of that,” said Chadwick, adding a spill of any kind from a barge or fuel from a tugboat can cause a lot of damage and take years to clean up.