Wood pellet plant proposed for Chase

$40-million facility would employ 25 local residents

A B.C. renewable energy company intends to build a $40-million wood-pellet manufacturing plant on an old sawmill site near downtown Chase.

If village residents and council approve, the Aylmer Road facility would employ about 25 locals and provide an additional 15 offshoot jobs, particularly in transporting wood to the site, said Leroy Reitsma, president and CEO of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group.

"There's probably 40 jobs in Chase that would be directly tied to that operation," Reitsma told The Daily News. "Then there's obviously the spin-off with increased rail activity et cetera."

A delegation from Pinnacle will present a proposal to village council during a meeting at the Chase Community Centre on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

After the meeting, the Pinnacle group will take questions from the public, said Larry Randle, the village's corporate officer. He anticipates the meeting will wrap up between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

With council's approval, a public hearing will be held at the community centre Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m. to gauge the mood of village residents, said Randle.

"My sense is, generally, they (council) are supportive of some kind of development and some base jobs in Chase to help families and younger people," he said.

Although there are homes on Aylmer, the location in question has, for the better part of a century, been industrial. Randle said a sawmill operation closed its doors in 2005.

The land was since rezoned residential. Village staff have asked to rezone the middle 10-hectare tract of land back to industrial. Randle said this is an agenda item for Tuesday.

If this happens, the current owners will subdivide the lot and sell it to Pinnacle, said Randle.

"If that proceeds, the goal and intention is to establish a wood-pellet making factory using mostly surplus wood-fiber material from Adams Lake Lumber," he said.

The Chase project is just part of Pinnacle's expansion plans, which include building a port in Prince Rupert. Reitsma said the shutdown of Domtar's sawdust operation created an opportunity for Pinnacle.

If the project goes ahead, Adams Lake will be a major source of lumber for the pellets, he said.

"When you try to pursue these things you look at a couple of different options, but we're looking very favourably at Chase," said Reitsma. "We like the site and we think we've got a good proposal."

The project has village businesses buzzing. Chase and District Chamber of Commerce manager Elena Markin said the community looks forward to learning more about it.

"Everyone is curious to hear what (Pinnacle) have to say," she said.

Given the village's size - its 2011 population was 2,495 - the plant would become a major employer alongside Safety Mart Foods and Adams Lake Lumber, said Markin.

"There will be a lot of spin-off opportunities from this," she said.

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