Regional Economic Investment Pilot- McBride to Barriere Corridor

The McBride to Barriere corridor has been selected as a pilot region for the Province’s Regional Economic Investment Pilot, a key initiative of the BC Jobs Plan. Home to the Secwepemc and Carrier First Nations, spanning the regional districts of Fraser-Fort George and Thompson-Nicola (TNRD), the McBride to Barriere corridor includes the communities of Barriere, Clearwater, Valemount, and McBride. The corridor was selected as a pilot region for its strong local leadership and focus on investment attraction. The pilot aims to build off the region’s collaborative approach to economic development and advance key projects in the tourism, energy, and fiber sectors.


About This Project

The McBride to Barriere corridor Regional Economic Development Forum launched the pilot on January 16 2012, by bringing together community and business leaders to identify and prioritize key economic development initiatives in the region. Three themes emerged that captured the broad range of possible projects. The themes are tourism, energy, and fiber.

Building off the momentum of the forum, the Ministry of Jobs Tourism and Skills Training along with local leaders are reviewing the identified projects within these themes. Three to four projects will be selected to advance through the Regional Economic Investment Pilot.

Fibre

To identify methods of increasing economic benefits from regional fibre supply, the Bridges II Project will work collaboratively at a sub-regional scale with small forest tenure holders, First Nations, communities and value-added manufacturers. The project kicked off with an initial field trip in November 2012 and included a field tour of the communities of McBride, Valemount, Vavenby, Clearwater and the Simpcw First Nation to begin the process of identifying regional priorities.

The Bridges II Project is jointly sponsored by the Province, the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC), the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC), the BC Community Forests Association and the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations and is managed by Chris Ortner who is responsible for implementing and reporting on critical project deliverables.

Energy

The Province and BC Hydro are considering the Robson Valley Task Force recommendations regarding construction of a new substation and transmission line as well as requirements to facilitate future load growth in the area covered by the Pilot.

Construction of a new 138 kV transmission line would further enhance power reliability and under favourable conditions could help stimulate regional economic development by potentially allowing construction and operation of the proposed run of river independent power projects (IPPs) and the ecoTech green technology park and biomass plant. If approved, a new transmission line would take up to 4-5 years to plan, permit and construct.

The North Thompson Area Transmission Study, anticipated to be completed in June 2012, will determine requirements to facilitate future load growth in the area including potential mines such as Harper Creek. BC Hydro has projected a four year timeline to complete consultation and regulatory processes and construct a new transmission line

Tourism

The Province will facilitate completion of a regional tourism strategy for the Corridor area. It is anticipated that such a strategy would provide the sub-region and member communities clear direction for priorities and actions that will strengthen their marketing and visitor experience.

The Province is also working with Communities in the corridor towards forwarding other specific priority projects, including:

Recreation Sites and Trails BC Program - the Crystal Ridge Sled Ski Area and the Swift Creek Trail received approval and the Province is in the process of legally establishing the trails.

Clearwater River Road and Trophy Mountain Road upgrades - two key backcountry access roads to Wells Grey Provincial Park frequently subject to washout or other forms of closure which negatively impacts local tour operators and supporting businesses during the short tourism season.

2013 Project Updates

Some great work has been accomplished as part of the McBride to Barriere Corridor Pilot. The following update highlights progress of priority projects identified within the three identified themes: Fibre, Energy and Tourism.

Fibre:

Since Bridges II initiation, the Project Manager has travelled extensively throughout the McBride to Barriere Corridor and will continue to meet with representatives of Community Forests, Woodlot Associations, value-added operators and other forest sector and local economic development representatives throughout the summer months to discuss, refine and complete the deliverables within the 2013/2014 Workplan.

The Project has defined objectives of working towards creating a future where there is:

  • Better knowledge of locally available logs and information on haul distance and destination
  • Promotion of established biomass waste handling and processing facilities
  • Awareness by BCTS of the needs of local ventures and support for their success
  • Understanding of value added business in the corridor and active work to ensure their success
  • Higher log prices through leveraging attention from buyers and market demands
  • Increased utilization of the timber profile on the broader spectrum – make better use of underutilized species including birch, hemlock and white pine

Achieving this desired future state requires extensive consultation and continued collaboration with operators within the sub-region and identification of issues that influence opportunity and ability to achieve success. Some of the issues identified through the project include:

  • Opportunities to improve collaboration and to leverage this to achieve higher log pricing through targeted marketing
  • Small manufacturers require access to local, affordable logs to remain viable and to support economic diversification in communities
  • The role of marketing and inventory control is critical to maintaining small mill production and identifying opportunities to take advantage of value added product markets
  • Existing business operators need information, supplies and training to support continued viability
  • Unused fibre components are a missed opportunity

Energy:

McBride Substation Development

BC Hydro and project proponents continue negotiations on the development of a transmission line from the Valemount substation to a new substation at McBride. The parties met regularly over the winter and spring to discuss elements of the Transmission Development Agreements and for entering into Electricity Purchase Agreements. The terms and conditions required for Transmission Development Agreements are well advanced but not yet concluded. The parties are committed to continuing discussions to advance negotiations and the proponents are working to provide project information to achieve the milestones required by December 2013.

North Thompson Transmission Line

BC Hydro suspended planning for the North Thompson transmission line reinforcement project in January 2013 due to uncertainty in the load forecasts associated with potential future industrial users. Resumption of planning will depend on whether large industrial loads materialize in the region to support capital required for transmission expansion.

Tourism:

Sub-Regional Tourism Strategy

A final draft sub-regional tourism strategy for the North Thompson, including the communities of McBride and Valemount, is nearing completion. The plan was initiated in October 2012 with funding assistance from Destination BC’s Community Tourism Foundation program and a draft strategy was distributed to community stakeholders at a follow-up workshop held March 4, 2013.

The final plan will include strategic priorities and implementation tactics around: position and marketing; destination experience; and, building capacity. These priorities will support sub-regional projects that will strengthen the Corridor visitor experience and its market position. A summer student has been hired to develop a database documenting regional tourism products, stories, and iconic landscapes.

As a related initiative, in February 2013, Northern BC Tourism partnered with McBride and Valemount to assist the communities in creating a tourism marketing plan to market experiences collectively under “The Robson Valley” brand. Funding is also being provided by Destinations BC’s Community Tourism Foundations program. This plan will also tie into the overall Robson Valley economic development plan being created by the Regional District of Fraser Fort George.

Road Improvements:

Access to the backcountry, hiking opportunities and spectacular Wells Grey Provincial Park was identified as a priority in support of tourism opportunities in the Corridor Pilot area. Road improvements and safety upgrades undertaken by the Province to facilitate safety and ease of access include:

  • Upgrades to the Trophy Mountain Road completed in late 2012
  • Upgrades to the Clearwater River Road in Wells Gray Park completed in early 2013
  • Construction of the new roundabout at the junction of Highway 5 and Clearwater Valley Road is underway and part of the ongoing improvements to this corridor.

More Information Online

For more information on this project, visit:
http://www.jtst.gov.bc.ca/economic_pilots/barriere_mcbride_info.htm

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