A large section of the derelict former Englee processing plant, one of the first fresh fish processing plants in the province, crashed last week into the harbour raising concerns that the entire structure may soon tumble into the water.
If that happens, warned Mayor Rudy Porter, a major shipping lane into the town’s main wharf will be cut off by flotsam, creating a navigation hazard.
“It should never have come to this,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get this issue resolved, but nothing has come of it. Well, it’s not good enough.”
In March, the Northern Pen reported on the town’s plea to have the provincial government come in and help remedy what could quickly become a disaster area.
Porter said the federal government has offered the town money under the small craft harbour program to build a new wharf at the site of the old plant, but wrangling over the ownership of the plant has stalled proceedings.
According to Porter, neither the provincial government nor the bank holding the deed to the property seem willing to do anything about the property and seem happier for it to fall into the water. But where does that leave the town and the fishermen who use that wharf?
“I wrote to (Fisheries Minister) Clyde Jackman last fall and he wrote back saying that the government wasn’t in the business of bailing out companies,” Porter said. “The company that owned it no longer exists. They went bankrupt. ... What happens when the rest of it falls into the water and blocks off the wharf?”
Daley Bros. walked out of the plant in 2004 and a year or two later NFL Fisheries planned to buy the structure but pulled out at the last minute, leaving the town with a ramshackle building that has since been vandalized and fallen into disrepair.
When the province handed down its 2011 budget 2011 April 19 there was “$150,000 for the demolition and site restoration of abandoned fisheries infrastructure,” but none of that appears to be going towards Englee.
Porter said with voters heading to the polls Oct. 11, this has become an election issue in his riding. Tourists have also become aware.
“They are getting a good idea of just what the provincial government thinks about small towns on the Northern Peninsula,” Porter said.
Jackman declined an interview request from the Northern Pen, but a department spokesperson emailed a brief statement saying the wharf was being held by a receiver as part of the overall assets of the Daley company that declared bankruptcy.
He also said the money in Budget 2011 was to address derelict fisheries infrastructure that belongs to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, adding the Englee plant is not the department’s asset.
The Northern Pen