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Masset resident concerned about environmental, tourism impacts of fuel storage by shoreline

North Arm Transportation will be moving fuel from barge to on-land storage
North Arm Transportation bought the lot that previously housed the Omega Packing Company plant. (Photo: supplied)

A woman in Masset is concerned about the environment and tourism impacts of a fuel storage facility along the shoreline.

North Arm Transportation purchased the Omega Packing Company’s old fish processing plant in Masset, Matt Stradiotti, president of North Arm Transportation, announced in an email sent to all employees on Nov. 25.

“We did purchase the property and our plan is currently being developed. So we don’t have a final plan but eventually, the idea is we’re going to be moving our business from the municipal dock and the storage facility, the storage barge we’ve got there,” Stradiotti told the Haida Gwaii Observer on Nov. 28.

According to the North Arm Transportation website, they currently have a fuel storage barge with a 1.2 million-litre capacity. However, Stradiotti said he could not say how large the on-land storage facility will be.

“I don’t know yet. If we have more demands, if our customers [and] our business grows and we have more demand for fuel then presumably it will increase. But if we don’t, then there’s not much point of putting a whole bunch of extra on, if it’s not going to be utilized.”

Presumably, though, he said, that as a base, there will be at least as much storage as they currently have on the barge, a 1.2 million-litre capacity.

In the email to employees, Stradiotti explained that the Omega plant was not viewed as ideal for their operation and they looked into other options. However, the only other “viable location”, Old Masset Village Council’s site at Tlaga Gawtlass Lot 65, did not work, he wrote.

While Stradiotti said the transportation company would have preferred to be a little bit outside of town, after the site at Tlaga Gawtlass did not work, they determined that there would not be any other possible locations on island.

Jody Grange, a resident and business owner in Masset, first heard of the project in the spring of 2022 and has a number of concerns.

“It’s on the water … and there’s no containment for the fuel tanks … There’s salmon that run up the streams and rivers … and there’s lots of wildlife. There are sea otters that have come back, which have recovered from near extinction in that area, you can now see them around,” Grange said.

“There’s just lots of wildlife. If something were to happen, it would be devastating to the salmon and other wildlife.”

Stradiotti said all of the fuel delivery that comes to Haida Gwaii, with the exception of some jet fuel, comes on barges and over water. All of it is delivered through marine facilities into storage facilities onshore or the current North Arm Transportation facility on the barge, he said.

Environmental impacts are not Grange’s only concerns. She is also worried that the project will take up some of the last remaining shorelines in the town. This is not only upsetting for residents but does not make the community as inviting for tourists, a major industry in Masset, she said.

“That’s the shoreline at the end of our town. If you take that away, we’ve got none. It disrupts the inlet too. It’s just such a beautiful place. I just hate to see all this industry coming in,” Grange said.

She wrote a letter to the Village of Masset council and chief administrative officer on July 27, voicing her concerns.

At the end of the letter, she wrote that she believes residents of Masset should be made aware of North Arm’s plan and be able to have a say, as in a vote or referendum. However, at the very least, she believed it should be brought to the agenda at a council meeting for discussion.

On Aug. 10, she received an email from the village’s chief administrative officer, Joshua Humphries, which stated that the property she was referring to is zoned as heavy industrial and if she’d like to have a copy of the zoning bylaw that could be arranged.

Her letter was not included in the council meeting agenda and she did not receive a response from any council members.

Barry Pages, who was mayor at the time and is now a councillor, said someone from the village responded, referring to Humphries’ email.

In May, the Village of Masset released a report prepared by Urban Systems with an action plan for the village’s Main Street. In the report, the authors suggested developing the pier at the end of Main Street and potentially adding a park beside it, which is just a couple lots over from the old Omega building.

“I just think it’s fair that it should be brought up to the people of Masset and they should be made aware of what’s happening to their downtown area. They should be given a choice,” Grange said.

“I mean, that’s the bottom line. We need to have a voice in this before we get more of our downtown taken away from us.”

Grange wrote an email to North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice with her concerns about the project. She received a response from Rice’s office explaining that there are currently no provincial regulations that govern petroleum storage tanks.

“We recommend tank owners follow the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment codes of practice for such tanks,” the provincial government states, but there is no additional information.

The Village of Masset asked North Arm Transportation to provide fuel to fishing fleets who were delivering to processing plants in the small community after the previous fuel supplier left on short notice and the remaining company on Haida Gwaii increased their prices significantly, Stradiotti stated in his email to employees.

North Arm Transportation was invited and asked to come to provide critical fuel supply to the community because the concern was fishing boats would stop delivering fish to the islands, he said.

 Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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