Western Canada Marine Response Corporation has announced a 25-year-lease agreement with the Nanaimo Port Authority. (File photo)

Construction on Nanaimo spill response base slated to begin in the spring

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation not expecting additional delays

As the Trans Mountain pipeline project inches closer to fruition, so does a proposed oil spill response base in Nanaimo.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the organization tasked with cleaning oil spills along British Columbia’s coast, is moving forward with plans to build a $10-million, 7,430-square-metre oil spill response base on waterfront property leased from the Port of Nanaimo. Once completed, 15 different vessels and 34 employees will be stationed at the Nanaimo base, which will also serve as a training centre and hub for WCMRC’s Vancouver Island operations.

WCMRC is also planning spill response bases in Sidney, Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Beecher Bay as part of a $150-million spill response enhancement program that has been mandated by the National Energy Board as part of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approval.

Michael Lowry, communication manager with WCMRC, said construction should begin on the Nanaimo base sometime between April and June of next year.

“Our aim is to start construction in the second quarter of 2020,” he said, adding that the goal is to have base fully operational by the fall of 2021.

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WCMRC has obtained all the necessary approvals to move forward with the project according to Lowry. He said because the base will be on federally owned Port of Nanaimo property, WCMRC doesn’t need to obtain building permits or re-zoning from the City of Nanaimo.

“We have approvals to move ahead with construction so there is no more regulatory pieces that we have to go through,” Lowry said. “Really, now it is just a matter of getting the tenders in place and securing the contractor.”

Lowry said his company has already hired management staff for the Nanaimo base and will hire more when appropriate.

“We’ve started our hiring plan and we will be continuing to do the hiring through 2020 and 2021…” he said. “The plan is to hire more staff as more vessels come online.”

Only two of the 15 vessels planned for the Nanaimo base have been delivered to WCMRC according to Lowry.

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WCMRC had planned to have the Nanaimo base fully operational by September, but plans were put on hold after Kinder Morgan decided to suspend all non-essential spending related to the Trans Mountain pipeline. The federal government has since purchased pipeline for $4.5 billion, with construction beginning earlier this month in Alberta.

There are still pending legal challenges and court decisions that could impact the pipeline’s future. Lowry said his company isn’t anticipating any further delays but knows they could happen at any time.

“Delays are well outside of our control and I wouldn’t have any insight on what they would look like,” he said. “Certainly, Trans Mountain has already begun construction and we have begun our work as well and we will be proceeding unless we are ordered not to proceed.”

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nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
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