The demise of Canfor’s Vavenby sawmill near Clearwater is giving new life to the Adams Lake sawmill.
This was part of the message that Brad Bennett, woodlands manager with Interfor’s Adams Lake division, brought to Salmon Arm council on July 8.
Bennett came to ask for council’s support of Interfor’s bid to take over the Canfor timber rights. New legislation requires a public interest test on any tenure, he explained.
Bennett has also visited the Village of Chase council, where the highest number of Adams Lake employees live, and received support there for the plan.
Canfor announced in June it will be permanently closing the Vavenby sawmill this month and selling its associated forest tenure for $60 million to Interfor, which will eliminate about 170 jobs in the Clearwater area.
Bennett explained the mountain pine beetle killed much of the log supply in the early 2000s, which companies have been salvaging for the past 15 to 20 years. However, that’s over, and annual allowable cut levels set by the province have been dropping and will continue to drop, at least for a couple of years. High log prices in 2018 with a market fall in 2019 “created what I call ‘a perfect storm,’” Bennett said.
The Adams Lake and Vavenby mills have been in a tougher situation than most, he explained. He pointed to an overall timber supply gap of about one million cubic metres.
“Every logging truck has about 50 cubic metres on it, so it’s a pretty big supply gap. Our facility consumes about 1.1 million cubic metres or 100 logging trucks per day.”
Bennett says with the additional timber supply from Canfor, “we become whole again.”
“Our employees were starting to get a bit disgruntled because they weren’t getting full-time employment at the facility… Despite AACs (annual allowable cuts) continuing to drop, this puts us in really good shape for the next decade-plus.”
While he said the Clearwater situation isn’t good, “if it wasn’t them, it was us. And if it wasn’t either of us, frankly, within the next five to 10 years, we would both be in a very disadvantaged situation and probably would be facing closure.”
He said the Adams Lake Division employs roughly 235 non-union hourly employees and another 250 employees contracted.
“The largest component comes from Chase, then Salmon Arm and Kamloops about equal at about 17 per cent. But if you look at other areas like Tappen, Blind Bay … almost 60 per cent of the employees, their service centre would be Salmon Arm.”
Council members present (Mayor Alan Harrison and Couns. Chad Eliason and Tim Lavery were absent) agreed to send a letter of support to the province supporting the transfer of timber licences, but not before Couns. Louise Wallace Richmond and Debbie Cannon questioned Bennett at length about Canoe Forest Products’ view of the timber transfer.
Bennett says Adams Lake has a good relationship with Gorman Bros., who own the Canoe plant. He said, geographically, the timber, to the north, would be economically difficult for Gorman to use.
Cannon also asked if, by supporting Interfor, council would be going against the interests of First Nations and community forests.
In the end, Coun. Kevin Flynn, acting as deputy mayor, said he doesn’t think it’s council’s job to begin negotiating for different groups.
“If we think it’s important to give Adams Lake and Interfor more timber so they can save jobs, we’re for it.”
Council will copy the letter of support to Gorman Bros.