Loggers are sending hardwood logs suitable for lumber, flooring, to be burned at Nova Scotia Power's biomass plant at Point Tupper, claim region's sawmill owners, say contractors can not justify cost of separating sawlogs from lower-quality wood

LOS ANGELES , May 13, 2014 () – High quality hardwood logs are being chipped to burn for power at Nova Scotia Power’s wood-fueled Point Tupper plant near Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, say sawmill and forest products business owners in the Cape Breton region.

According to David Fraser, who runs BA Fraser Lumber in Margaree Valley, logging contractors can not justify the cost of separating quality saw logs from lower-quality wood for the biomass plant, The Chronicle Herald reported on May 12.

Fraser says he has noticed a decline in quality sawlogs, and says loggers are taking good stems that are suitable for lumber and flooring.

He noted that the biomass plant had been expected to increase the supply of quality logs for lumber by making it economical for contractors to access lower-quality woodlots, where they would sort the wood and sell higher-quality logs to sawmills. In reality, said Fraser, the opposite had happened. He suggested that, because contractors were being paid on a per tonne basis, they were unlikely to incur the extra cost of hiring someone to sort the logs.

Peter Christiano, owner of hardwood flooring manufacturer Finewood Flooring and Lumber in Middle River, Victoria County, said his business was also being impacted by the lack of a guaranteed long-term supply of hardwood. According to Christiano, demand created for low-quality wood by the biomass plant is removing incentives for woodlot owners and contractors to gather higher-quality logs.

The issue has also been noted by Mark MacPhail, forestry manager for the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, which oversees First Nation employment in forestry in Cape Breton. Macphail said he had seen some high-quality saw logs being sent to the biomass plant, but at a low rate of around a couple of truckloads in hundreds.

MacPhail said that the high prices being paid for biomass fuel meant that it was not worth a contractor’s time to separate the grades.

Nova Scotia Power commented that the biomass plant in Point Tupper only burns material gathered using sustainable practices. Spokeswoman Neera Ritcey said the company followed procurement rules which excludes the use of high-value wood, and ensured its suppliers met that requirement.

The primary source of this article is The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, on May 12, 2014. The original article can be viewed here.

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