By Kyle Reid | Nov. 26
It has become the most controversial development proposal in Conception Bay South in some time and with the return of the land use assessment from Ocean Choice International it may not be long before CBS council has to make a decision on the contentious OCI cold storage facility in Long Pond.
The development, if approved, would create 30 to 40 full-time jobs in CBS, would see five freezer vessels make about 60 trips into the port per year and deal with about 25,000 tons of catch over that time, according to the company.
The Town of CBS has registered a number of objections to the project from residents largely concerned with the potential environmental impact of infilling the harbour. A potential solution to alleviate those concerns could have been to acquire land near the harbour to develop, but OCI president Blaine Sullivan said that it wasn’t possible at the time, noting that there is no natural place for the project.
“We did have some discussions with some of the land owners around the wharf, and there was nothing available at the time,” said Sullivan.
For OCI, the development made sense over other ice-free harbours because of the location’s close proximity to St. John’s, as well as the ability of the port to service vessels coming from multiple fishing grounds, Sullivan said.
When the Long Pond Harbour Authority began looking for proposals to purchase 12 acres of the waterlot, the land underneath the harbour, opportunity presented itself for OCI. They purchased the land from the harbour authority and the plan for the first phase of the project, submitted in August, is to develop 17,000 square metres of new land in the port, in order to build a wharf and cold storage facility.
That project was approved in principle by CBS council and the Town had been waiting for the return of the Land Use Assessment Report from OCI which is supposed to clarify the potential impact of the development.
The assessment was returned last week, and painted a relatively rosy picture about the environmental impact of the development.
Specifically, the Land Use Assessment Report said there was little risk of environmental impacts, including flooding, as well as little worry about noise pollution or odour pollution from the facility.
Some residents have wanted the provincial government to complete an environmental assessment which it declined, arguing that it was not needed as the harbour is not an estuary. However, Sullivan said he is confident in the engineer’s reports compiled by OCI, which include models of current flow, ice flow and sediment flow in the harbour.
“It was quite extensive,” Sullivan said. “We’ve had multiple engineering companies look at different aspects of this…They’ve done modeling of the harbour and basically their findings are (that) our development has negligible impact.”
Those findings will be further reviewed by another engineering firm employed by the Town which will deliver its take on the findings before council votes on the project.
While some concerns have been raised about the little amount of time it took OCI to return the land use assessment, just two weeks after the terms of reference were delivered by the Town to the company, Sullivan defended the timeline by explaining that engineers employed by OCI have been working to determine the impact of the development for months.
“We’ve been working on this since July,” said Sullivan, noting that OCI had received approval in principle by council at that time, subject to approval from regulatory authorities. “The first time that I had met with advocates in August, they had (raised) many issues that the (land use assessment) covers…if you look at what we’ve submitted as a document, it’s probably quite extensive compared to what most companies are asked to submit, and I believe that’s a result of the concerns raised by the community.”