Port plans $5.6 million substation for terminal

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
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Development plans for a $5.6 million electrical substation near the Port of Vancouver's Terminal 5 suggest the port may be close to signing a lease with Australian mining giant BHP Billiton.

The company has agreed to split the cost of the substation three ways with the port and Clark Public Utilities, even though BHP Billiton has not officially signed on to occupy the port's Terminal 5, where it would build a facility to export potash fertilizer. Port officials are negotiating to buy the proposed substation site, 2.77 acres at 5197 Lower River Road, which is owned by Clark County.

"We're talking about making it ours," said Theresa Wagner, communications chief for the port.

She said construction of the 30-megawatt substation could start by the end of this year, with completion by late 2013. BHP Billiton's development would only need between 10 and 11 megawatts to operate. Excess capacity could serve future Terminal 5 tenants, Wagner said.

Port officials first announced BHP Billiton's proposal in August 2010, agreeing to set aside 60 acres for the development at the port's 218-acre Terminal 5, the former Alcoa-Evergreen aluminum site.

BHP Billiton wants the planned export facility to go into operation by 2015. However, Wagner said projects at Terminal 5, such as engineering, soil stabilization and preconstruction work, will continue regardless of whether the port lands BHP Billiton.

"It's all related to the redevelopment of Terminal 5," she said.

BHP Billiton has said it would invest several hundred million dollars in developing the export facility, where it would load outgoing ships bound primarily for Asia with potash mined in Canada. The operation would create an estimated 40 jobs.

Potash is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be nontoxic to aquatic organisms, according to the port. At Terminal 5, the potash would be stored in fully enclosed facilities.