Memo to Alberta Farmers: Impact Analysis of the B.C. Floods
The recent flooding and landslides in British Columbia’s interior have substantially impacted rail transport to the west coast, a critical connection for maintaining export shipments of our grain. Over the last week, a significant amount of assessment and repairs have occurred. Here is a summary of the available information.
Timelines for railway repairs
As of November 23, at 2:00pm, the Canadian Pacific (CP) line to Vancouver is now open and the Canadian National (CN) line to Vancouver is expected to be open on November 25. The initial opening of these lines will operate slowly, at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour, as the repaired sections are monitored to ensure integrity and safety. There is no date currently set for the resumption of normal rail speeds. This will limit rail traffic to Vancouver until the railways are assured that the repaired lines are safe. At this point, two trains have travelled the restored CP rail line.
Rail movement and impact to date
Rail traffic will likely return to normal in approximately one month due to the one-week delay. This is due to the large amount of rail traffic on both sides of the Rocky Mountains waiting to move to-and-from the coast. Between CN and CP, there are approximately 5,000 rail cars sitting in the Vancouver corridor. In addition, a week's worth of rail traffic is loaded and waiting to move west to the prairie region. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reports that CP has a backlog of 47 trains, and CN has a backlog of 50 trains. The B.C. rail route north out of the province is currently closed but is being considered to provide surge capacity to help alleviate the backlog. No plans for opening the B.C. rail route have been announced. Industry contacts report that wheat shipments from northern Alberta, that were scheduled to move to Prince Rupert, have been able to continue during the outage. The protest on November 19, near New Hazelton, B.C., led to a short blockade on the CN line to Prince Rupert, but there have been no reports of significant disruption due to this blockade.
As of the week ending November 14, grain inventories at country elevators were in line with the three-year average, while grain inventory at Vancouver were 12 per cent above the three-year average, and grain inventory at Prince Rupert were 13 per cent below the three-year average. The grain inventory in Vancouver represented approximately five days’ worth of shipping and are expected to have been exhausted as the Port of Vancouver noted that zero rail unloads of grain occurred on November 22. In addition, the Port of Vancouver has reported there is a growing lineup of vessels in anchorages. As of November 22, anchorages in the inner harbour and English Bay are essentially full and new vessels are being redirected into the Southern Gulf Islands and Indian Arm anchorages. The most recent update from the Grain Monitoring Program reports that there are 26 grain vessels waiting in the Port of Vancouver and two vessels waiting in the Port of Prince Rupert.
Transport Canada is currently working with industry to determine priority of goods to move now that rail transport has been restored. Essential goods, including agricultural products, are expected to be prioritized.
A weather warning for the west coast and Fraser Canyon region has been issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada, which is expected to receive a “parade of storms” over the next week. Significant precipitation is expected in and around these areas on Thursday and over the weekend. There are concerns with how these storms could further impact the region.
Marketing and Communications Manager
Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions