The deadlock occurred when residents of the west side became aware of a proposal to route high-voltage power lines along a railbed right-of-way to get to American Iron and Metal's port-based plant. This project would not have required an environmental impact assessment, and residents objected to the lack of consultation over a development that could block waterfront views and lower property values.
Common Council responded to the public complaints by denying to give the project a go-ahead, instead asking NB Power to bury the power lines. The provincial utility seemed reluctant to do so, citing the greatly increased cost of putting the wires underground as well as maintenance issues. While this debate was taking place, officials at American Iron and Metal pointed out that unless they received the access to power their operation would need, the company would be forced to take its expansion elsewhere.
The alternative proposed by Saint John Energy and NB Power offers a mutually beneficial solution. Saint John Energy will move up plans to build an expanded electrical substation on the lower west side by two years, if NB Power agrees to supply the energy. AIM will receive the electricity its plant needs, and officials from the port authority, city, and federal and provincial governments will have two years to determine the best way to route industrial quantities of electricity to the docks over the longer term.
We congratulate staff at both electrical utilities for demonstrating that where there is the will, there is a way.