'We've got a road'

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Barb Sweet
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Princeton fish plant operator relieved work started on washed-out road

Geraldine Prince is shown on a barricade on the washed-out road to her small fish plant in Princeton. The plant could be reached by a secondary rough dirt road until work started on the washout late last week, partially opening the access.

Bonavista Peninsula — Nearly three weeks after Igor, Geraldine Prince has been nervously watching her bottom line, but some relief came late last week when heavy equipment moved in.

The usual brisk business of drive-by customers was passing her fish plant by because of a washed-out road, taking with them crucial sales. But work was started late last week replacing the destroyed road, partially opening it.

“The pipes are there and we got a road. It’s great. We’re not back to totally normal, because I don’t know what normal is anymore,” Prince said Monday.

There’s also worry about small boat fishermen on the Bonavista Peninsula getting enough mackerel after delays caused by hurricane Igor to keep the plant afloat for next year’s licensing criteria. mackerel is included in the pelagic species’ licence quota with caplin herring, smelt, tuna and squid.

She hopes the mackeral will gear up this week.

Prince and her husband, Gerald, operate Princeton Seawater Fisheries Ltd., a small operation that employs around 12 in peak season.

The plant’s office is located on the main road through the community, but the plant is on a side road, which up to late last week was only accessible by a secondary rough dirt road.

A busy sales season is part of the plant’s staple income.

“We sell a lot of product locally,” Prince said last week, sitting next to an office wall lined with historical photos of the fishery in Princeton — a long tradition of catching and processing species such as cod, lobster and squid.

Both the plant office and home were partially flooded by Igor and there was early worry about stored fish product being kept frozen during the post-Igor power outage. That worked out, but the road washed out to the plant continued to hamper business.

“Losing sales is bothering me a lot. We’re trying to keep going whatever way we can. We’ve offered to do deliveries. Business is tough anyway at the best of times.”

Even with both mackeral and squid uncertain and salt and frozen fish sales not as brisk, Prince is resilient and open for business.

“I’m running out of time. But I’m not giving up yet,” she said.

Across the road at Floyd Prince’s small grocery store, fresh tile is being laid on the floor, new drywall is up and Floyd Prince is looking forward to a new beginning.

But it looked more like the end after  the Sept. 21 hurricane struck.

A paper sign outfront reminds customers the store is closed but they may use the side entrance for the post office.

The store was destroyed.

“It was an awful, awful mess,” Floyd Prince recalled.

But Floyd Prince was chatting with the assistant fire chief at a meeting at the firehall after Igor and help was offered taking out the sodden drywall, flooring and shelving.

That offer was to turn things around.

Floyd Prince and his wife, Lorraine, were in the store when they heard sirens.

Outside there were about 20 carloads of people come to lend a hand, lead by a fire truck.

“They asked where do you want us to start?” Floyd Prince said.

“Two hours and everything was gutted out. After that there was no looking back.”

His brother, Robert Prince, who was home from Alberta got an open ended ticket for return and has been helping put the store back together.

“The pipes are there and we got a road. It’s great. We’re not back to totally normal, because I don’t know what normal is anymore.” Plant owner Geraldine Prince

“He’s here day and night,” a grateful Floyd said.

But the sound of thunder and a heavy rain shower, he admits, raises his anxiety level.

He figures he lost about $3,000 worth of meats and cheeses. Drygoods that were above the flood level are now stored in the backroom.

He and his wife have operated the store for 30 years and there have been lean times before — particularly in the wake of the imposition of the  cod moratorium in 1992.

“This has been the biggest test yet,” he said.

In Plate Cove West, production has restarted at Furlong Brothers Ltd. And things were returning to normal last week after Plate Cove West and Plate Cove East were among the last communities reconnected.

Mike Furlong said he was still having trouble getting all workers in from surrounding communities such as Bonavista because of road detours.

But it was a relief from the power outages and road cutoffs in the wake of the storm.

“Two weeks ago we were not the same people,” he said of he and wife Anne Marie’s reduced stress level now that business, which employs about 100, was getting back to usual.

“But what could we do? It was nobody’s fault.”

Furlong said the only thing that saved his plant from being destroyed was a new breakwater funded by Department of Fisheries and Oceans small craft harbours and finished in July.

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Organizations: Princeton Seawater Fisheries, Furlong Brothers, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Princeton, Plate Cove West, Alberta Plate Cove East Bonavista

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