New developments excite us; they get our juices flowing. Some of them we’ll love and some we’ll deplore. It seems that the bigger they are, the more we are pumped. Chetwynd has had its share of developments over the decades.
For much of its existence, Chetwynd has stood, like a three-legged stool, on three sturdy legs. Stable. Not easily off balanced. Dependable. These legs were the forests, the soil, and the people. In the very early days, the forests provided logs for cabins and concealed the wild creatures that gave us food and clothing (yes, I do remember). They also supplied the logs that were processed by the many little bush sawmills by which tough, work-hardened men and women earned precarious livings.
These were the new developments 60 years ago.
Many of the men and women who worked the mills in winter, in summer, grubbed out the fields that now surround Chetwynd and follow the roads radiating out from town. They established the beginnings of agriculture, the foundation of society, at least here in the temperate zone.
This, too, was a new development.
Fifty years ago, give or take a few years, the little bush mills gave way before the centralized, corporate manufacturers and one of them settled right in the middle of our town. Canfor has been a mainstay of Chetwynd longer than most of us have been around. The arrival of other major industries that began with West Fraser and now include gas, coal, and wind has not detracted from the importance of Canfor to our community.
And now there is yet another new development.
Pacific Bioenergy has been talking with the District and negotiating for property for the last couple of years. The factory is to be located on about eight acres of land, now owned by Canfor and situated between the planer mill and the CN Rail line. The Pacific Bioenergy plant, when in full production in about two years, will produce wood pellets for electricity generation in Europe, taking its raw material primarily from the waste sawdust and bark of the Canfor mills in Chetwynd and Fort St. John.
How will this industry affect the quality of life we enjoy in Chetwynd? Council questioned the company executives thoroughly on this matter. Noise levels? Air quality? Particulate matter (dust)? New technology is planned for this mill and all storage and processing will be enclosed. The plumes of white emanating from the stack will be water vapour, new technology retaining the volatile hydrocarbons of the wood resulting in a higher quality of wood pellet. You won’t be able to hear or smell the plant in the residential areas.
Are there advantages for Chetwynd? In the first place, the raw material for the pellets, now being burned, will be put to profitable use. Approximately 25 high-paying jobs will be created resulting in 25 solidly based families with the resources to buy locally, pay taxes, and contribute to a prosperous community. Good for us!
Merlin Nichols, Mayor