ST. ANTHONY, N.L. – The directors behind the much-anticipated Crémaillère Harbour Marine Port project held their first meeting with the general public last week.
The proposed port would make St. Anthony a key location for travel and shipping now that activity in the Arctic is growing.
“This is a local project, but it is open to the world,” said Great Northern Port Inc. director Francois-Xavier Morency. “We are well located in terms of global connectivity. Traffic in the north is increasing and many possibilities are there.
“As the north is opened up, we will profit.”
A variety of interested parties attended the meeting at the Grenfell Interpretation Centre in St. Anthony on May 19.
The multifaceted project has been in the works since November of 2016, and Morency, who lead the presentation, hopes the project will see its first shovel in the ground by the spring of 2020.
A variety of assessment and report work has already been done for the project, with the requirement of the land itself the next immediate goal for its development.
The proposed full service offshore marine base would include roads, warehousing, fabrication and laydown areas, a diesel and base oil fuel tank farm and docks.
Whether it be untapped oil resources of the Arctic, shipping routes to Europe, or even offering a northern hub for coast guard and military supply and repair, the Crémaillère Harbour project could become a centre of movement on several fronts.
With so many possibilities, director of corporate affairs for Great Northern Port Inc. Colleen Oliver stood before the attendees and expressed the need for a sustainable future in the Great Northern Peninsula region — and that this project could play an essential role in fulfilling that need.
“We know the reality of the magnitude of this project; the work that has gone into this thus far is unbelievable. But we need everybody’s input to make this go forward,” said Oliver. “The population of St. Anthony is declining, out-migration in this province is crazy – it’s an abysmal future in the current model. We need this and we need your help.”
Morency also detailed that the team would like to see as much local employment from this project as possible.
“We hope small businesses will sprout from the activity with this port, and the goal is to get a good percentage of Newfoundland employment towards the project itself,” he said. “We want the project rooted in the community ultimately.”
Various goals, estimates, projections and possibilities for the Crémaillère Harbour port were presented on large poster boards.
During his presentation, Morency identified “five poles” the team has developed as key functions for the port.
The completed project would be a full service northern port, naturally sheltered from ice, a re-supply base for coast guard and naval vessels, an air service hub for helicopters that would help enable more northern exploration, a year-round transformation hub for shipping across North America and Europe, and a sustainability centre for oil spill research and other environmental initiatives.
With this diverse range of uses, Morency says the likelihood of the project’s approval by government increases exponentially.
“If we only try to do one thing we think the probability of it working is not as good — we want to spread our chances,” he said.
One area of particular advantage is the decision to develop the dock for the port with a prefabricated jackpile system. This technology works by a hydraulic system that minimizes environmental impact and reduces any damage to the harbour’s shore.
These floating docks are also easy to transport and can be jacked up with rising sea levels — which has been a major obstacle with other ocean development projects.
Morency feels utilizing this technology can be a major selling point in building momentum to get the project to go ahead.
“There is also a place needed to manufacture [the jackpile docks], and the combination of both manufacturing it and putting it to use right at the dock is something we’re working hard at securing right now,” Morency said.
By June 1 Great Northern Port Inc. plans to submit its environmental review report and the provincial government has 45 days to approve the project.
Once the project clears the environmental review process and government approval, the company can go ahead with securing the rights to the 2,100 acres of land around Crémaillère Bay needed for the facility.
According to Oliver, thus far government has been highly impressed and supportive of the project.
Community concerns and future potential
Particularly with its economic impact potentials in mind, many community members in attendance were hopeful the project will go ahead. President and CEO of the Great Northern Port Inc. Dan Villeneuve emphasized that community involvement is very important to help make this port a reality.
“Now that we’ve entered the public consultation phase, we want to keep everyone engaged and informed,” Villeneuve said. “We know people want to see their families come home and their communities thrive. To see this amount of people come out for this meeting – we appreciate it.”
Local mayors, business people and citizens had many questions during the meeting.
They wondered how the port might affect traffic, housing development and how other future projects like a tunnel linking the Northern Peninsula to mainland Canada could affect the Crémaillère Harbour project.
While Villeneuve could not offer specific details to answer those questions, he assured the crowd that the concerns of the community will always be kept in mind.
“We have to focus and discuss a lot of things about how this project develops, but we also must always remember that phrase ‘not at all costs,’” Villeneuve said.
Following the meeting, Villeneuve says it was a great encouragement to see such a strong level of community interest and engagement so early on in the development of this project.