Vaagen Fibre Canada’s mill will be shut down for at least two months, Fibre Manager Dan Macmaster said Friday.
The Midway sawmill, which directly employs 70 workers and contracts another 45 between Grand Forks and Osoyoos, shut down on Feb. 10 and anticipates being closed for eight to 10 weeks, Macmaster said in a release. This past week, all workers were kept on to work on equipment that normally can’t be as thoroughly maintained while the mill is running.
In a release, the company said that the bulk of the workforce will be temporarily laid off, starting Feb. 18, but they expect to re-hire everyone when the mill resumes operations.
“We have many opportunities to procure volume by working with other mills, local woodlot owners, First Nations bands, the local community forest and the [BC Timber Sales],” Macmaster said. “With road restrictions blanketing the Boundary at the beginning of February, we were not able to haul wood, even with freezing cold temperatures and idea logging weather.”
Vaagen Fibre Canada is non-tenured, meaning that the company purchases all of its wood from open market and through the West Boundary Community Forest, woodlots and other licensees. Some of the mill’s fibre also comes from fuel mitigation works in the region.
In an email, Macmaster said that load restrictions imposed by the province this month on secondary roads, which limit load weight to either 70 or 50 per cent, will hamper the mill’s viability, “essentially making it uneconomical to haul logs.”
On Feb. 10, 33 Boundary roads used for hauling such as Fife Road, Santa Rosa Road, Granby Road, North Fork Road, Beaverdell Station Road and Norwegian Creek Road were restricted to 70 per cent axle loading.
According to section 66 of the provincial Transportation Act, “[i]f the minister believes that a provincial public highway is liable to damage through extraordinary traffic, the minister may limit, prohibit or make directions respecting the use of the provincial public highway.”
Load limitations are meant to reduce stress on roads as they defrost, helping to protect them from cracking or buckling.
While road use limitations are typical when freeze-thaw cycles are expected, critics say that a blanket ban overlooks the possibility of nighttime hauling, when temperatures are expected to remain well below freezing.
The Grand Forks Gazette reached out to the Ministry of Transportation for comment on Feb. 14 but has not yet heard back.
Macmaster said that while the mill is shut down, some staff will be kept on to work on equipment and maintenance.