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Big expansion plans for local port

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Stimulus funding includes new dock

JOHNSTOWN – The Township of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal has selected a contractor to complete the first phase of a new marine terminal project at the Port of Prescott.
Municipal council voted on Monday night to award the job to Pomerleau at a bid price of more than $14,777,000. It was the lowest of the eight bids received by the township; the others ranged from $17.2 million to more than $20.4 million.
The initial phase of the $35-million project will see a 340-metre extension of the riverfront dock into the St.Lawrence River at the western edge of the port property. The extension will consist of 12 stone-filled cell structures and will permit two ships at berth.
The facility at Johnstown (the grain elevator east of Prescott) is the only deep-water port between Montreal and Toronto.
Funding was announced as part of the Build Canada program in 2009. The federal and provincial governments will each contribute one-third of the money; the remaining third comes from the port, which the municipality purchased from the feds for $60 in 2000.
Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Mayor Bill Sloan said proceeding with phase one is “a big step for the township to take.” The upgraded port facility will provide additional storage area and operate in a more environmentally friendly manner while offering opportunities to expand to different products. The second and third phases of the project include the rehabilitation of the existing riverfront dock and the creation of cargo and handling capacity.
“It’s going to benefit the entire area, not just the township,” the mayor said.
Robert Dalley, general manager of the port, indicated that the facility is limited in what it can handle because of the existing wharf. “Our attitude is let’s build it... We can go after the bigger cargos,” Dalley said.
Speaking as a farmer, Deputy Mayor John Hunter said port expansion represents a critical link for the local agricultural community. Hunter estimated corn production has tripled in recent years; increasing storage and shipping capacity will enable growth to continue, he indicated. “If we can’t get it out, we can’t expand,” the deputy mayor said.
Phase one is expected to be completed by next fall. The infrastructure funding must be used by March 31, 2016. The port dates back to the early 1930s.
Officials had expected the first phase to cost in the range of $19 million. With the successful bid coming in well under that amount, additional funds can be applied to subsequent phases.
Former port manager Bob Hennessy, who serves as project manager, gave credit to the municipality for making the “gutsy move” to take over the facility from the federal government  11 years ago and to seek expansion. “It will pay huge economic dividends for the community,” he said.
Hennessy and other project officials indicated that the contractor has been encouraged to make use of local companies and service providers whenever possible. Quebec-based Pomerleau built a cruise ship wharf in Sept Iles, it was noted on Monday night.
Township officials also gave credit to South Nation Conservation and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne for their support in ensuring the project meets regulatory requirements. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans gave its final approval in late August.

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