City of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, becomes owner of shuttered Watson Island pulp mill after Sun Wave Forest Products fails to pay more than C$6.4M in back taxes

PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia , September 30, 2009 () – At 4:30 p.m. on September 29, the City of Prince Rupert became the new owners of the Watson Island Pulp Mill and the majority of land on Watson Island after Sun Wave Forest Products failed to pay the more than $6.4 million owed in back taxes by the tax sale deadline.

Along with the ownership comes maintenance and upkeep on the 270 hectares and the mill, which chief financial officer Dan Rodin said is estimated at approximately $100,000 per month, until council decides what direction to go with it.

“For the first time in 12 or 13 years we are in charge of our destiny with that property. Whether that is the sale of the property or leasing the property has to be determined by council,” said acting mayor Kathy Bedard.

“The ultimate [result] would be an operating mill, but I think the community gave up on that some time ago.”

While the City will own the majority of the land, there are some portions of the island that will remain under the ownership of Sun Wave as they did pay taxes on certain parcels of the land.

And while the ongoing Sun Wave saga has been a concern to council for some time, Bedard said it really was a matter of waiting until the deadline came and went.

“Given the history of this, we weren’t able to think it would go one way or the other until 4:30 p.m. today,” she said.

“We haven’t received anything from Sun Wave and they have not communicated with the City today in any way.”

Sun Wave purchased the pulp mill on June 15, 2006, and was offered relief from property taxes and the taxes owed to the City provided the mill was operational by the end of 2007. However, the mill was never restarted and taxes never paid, leaving a total tax bill of $6,478,178.23 owed to the City of Prince Rupert.

In a media release, the City said it is expected that "the outstanding property tax revenues, as well as other revenue, will be received".

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