North Thompson Rail Terminals intends to begin constructing a $10 million trans-loading rail yard at 1310 Kootenay Way, linking to the existing Canadian National Railway located within the Tk’emlups reserve.
The final hurdle before construction can begin is whether or not the project will require an environmental assessment — a decision the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is in the process of making.
Construction is earmarked to begin March 1 in three phases on 27 hectares of land leased for 99 years under an agreement between the NTRT, federal government and the Tk’emlups Band.
NTRT president Corey Bitz told KTW the facility will be the first of its kind to connect to the CN line in Kamloops. There are other trans-loading operations in town, but they connect to the Canadian Pacific Rail, he said.
“We think there’s a need in the Kamloops area,” Bitz said of the company’s decision to develop the yard. “We see that there’s a lot of product moving by truck out of the area and there’s no other ability to get on to the CN directly.”
The rail yard, which NTRT will own and operate, is meant to make the transfer of commodities more efficient in B.C. through the movement of shipments from one mode of transportation to another.
The benefits of trans-loading between truck and rail include reducing traffic on highways and trucking costs, Bitz said.
While the yard will be focused on transporting lumber initially, once operational, Bitz said the goal is to attract other commodities to its service.
“We’ll build [more] tracks depending upon the commodities and the customers that come forward and phase two and phase three are reserved for possible distribution centres or a place for customers to sort or stock their products for trans-loading,” Bitz said.
The first phase will cost $10 million and involve developing about quarter of the leased land.
With the business up and running, NTRT would become a customer of CN Rail.
Bitz said because more than six rail tracks are being built the NTRT is federally required to submit a project description for the CEAA to review.
According to the description report, impacts to the environment from developing the yard are expected to be minimal given the limited amount of wildlife habitat, lack of aquatic features and proximity of anthropogenic disturbances from neighbouring industrial sites.
The rail yard is expected to create more than 20 jobs, the report stated.
“We’re looking forward to creating some jobs in the community — not just direct jobs with our transloading people but also with trucks and buying equipment from local businesses and, as we move forward, we’re going to require all types of maintenance,” Bitz said.
The site of the proposed development — between Tk’emlups’ former hop farm and the Halston Connector — has historically been used for agriculture and will require NTRT removing and remediating debris piles from the property as part of the lease.
The full three phase scope of the project includes 41 tracks, totalling 14.6 kilometres of track, 36,600 square-metres of laydown areas for commodity loading and offloading, a 4,600 square metre administration building, a site access road, storm water management system and areas for clients to sub lease and for future expansion.
The facility is anticipated to provide railcar storage, switching, trans-loading and intermodal and container stuffing for a variety of prospective clients.
The CEAA is considering public comments until Jan. 23 and will post a decision on its website, stating whether an environmental assessment is required.
If one is required, the public will have three more opportunities to comment on the environmental assessment of the project.
— This story was updated to include comment form NTRT president Corey Bitz