Rio Tinto Alcan reopens access to Kitimat waterfront

Rio Tinto Alcan has reopened Hospital Beach, the nearby boat ramp and Moore Creek and the Moore Creek falls for public use.

RTA took out an ad in a local newspaper Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2012, to make the announcement which came after a meeting members of the District of Kitimat Council on Oct. 4.

The RTA statement reads, in part:

Both Rio Tinto Alcan and the District of Kitimat understand the value and importance of ocean access to residents of the area while at the same time, continuing to respect and ensure that safety is the number one priority.

Over the last few months, while hearing the disappointment and concern about Hospital Beach, the KMP [Kitimat Modernization Project] Construction Team took action to mitigate the public safety risk. The massive rock trucks hauling heavy loads will be re-routed; a new bridge over Anderson Creek has been installed; new traffic lights will be installed near the Construction Village; and an extra construction road has been built from the former Eurocan Haul Road. All these measures have enabled the decision to accommodate the wishes of the community to access Hospital Beach, the boat ramp and Moore Creek safely.

It is important to remind residents however, Rio Tinto Alcan is in the middle of constructing a mega project to modernize and sustain the aluminium smelter business in Kitimat for the benefit of us all. This is the highest priority with many demands and intense focus. To that end, Rio Tinto Alcan will continue to assess traffic patterns and will likely need to make short term closures again as construction dictates. It is imperative that residents respect the company’s right to manage activities on its private property as it deems in the best interest of its business, including the KMP and public safety.

Rio Tinto Alcan and the District of Kitimat have committed together to work toward finding long term solution to ocean access. Thank you all for your patience, support and cooperation.

As the members of District council were meeting in Kitimat, in Prince Rupert, the Northern View reported that CN was cutting off access to part of the town’s waterfront, again for safety issues: CN erects barriers, no trespassing signs along Prince Rupert waterfront

Prince Rupert residents wanting to walk along the road adjoining the ocean past Rotary Waterfront Park will notice new barriers and signs alerting them that they would be trespassing should they do so.
The barricades and signs were put up yesterday, and CN regional manager of public affairs Emily Hamer says it is due to safety concerns with the public on the railway’s property.

Prince Rupert acting mayor Anna Ashley told the Northern View the city expected some restrictions during construction and said the city planned to talk to CN about the issue.

In an e-mail to Northwest Coast Energy News after the October 4 meetingm Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan, while hinting  then that a solution to the restrictions was coming, said that industry has been faced with so many lawsuits that safety is becoming a bigger issue.

Councillor Corinne Scott also said that the meeting with RTA stressed that “Large businesses are putting safety as a higher priority.” (She also noted that council agreed to have regular meetings with RTA “.communication lines are open and we look forward to a continued good working relationship between the District of Kitimat and RTA. “)

In both cases, it appears that waterfront access is a legacy issue, left over from an earlier era of industrial development that gave little thought to either the environment or community.
Now it is also apparent that liability lawyers, who probably live thousands of kilometres away from the northwest, have, so far, been driving this issue, with little regard for the needs of local residents.

Make no mistake, safety should be a high priority, but arbitrary restrictions that may look good on legal brief, could actually mean that people would simply try to get around the restrictions, to the determent of safety. It is well known that RTA Plant Protection was finding people at Hospital Beach during the summer, especially at night, despite the publicized restrictions,  barriers and warning signs.

Today with a strong need for jobs in northwestern British Columbia, future community needs for access to waterfront and green space (even in such a wide green area as northern BC) must be taken into consideration in municipal and corporate planning. If that planning isn’t done, that will mean that while there could be jobs, the northwest could be in a situation as it was this summer, with no way to enjoy the advantages of waterfront life in northern BC.