With federal government funding confirmed and an environmental impact meeting set for July 14, backers are now predicting final, final, final clearance of the Cornwall ethanol plant by the beginning of August.
More than a decade in the making, the $50 million dream of Eastern Ontario corn growers has overcome countless obstacles, staying alive through a combination of sheer determination and last-minute reprieves.
With two sessions to be held, the environmental meeting is set for Cornwallís Nativity Hall, 1-3 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Bud Atkins, president of Seaway Grain Processors Inc., said the session is being seen as one of the last formalities on the road to final clearance.
"We already have all our environmental permits in place and this is just the renewal," Atkins said. "There may be a few people there with negative comments, but weíve done everything required under law."
While a few other technicalities need to be sorted out, gun-shy Atkins said he felt "pretty confident" that early August will be a go.
Once construction starts, at least a full year will be required to complete the plant. When up and running, itíll employ 50-60 people, with an output of 66 million litres of ethanol a year.
The last major hurdle was cleared when $10.5 million from the federal ethanol expansion program was confirmed during the election campaign by incumbent Stormont-Dundas and South Glengarry MP Bob Kilger.
Kilger was defeated by Conservative Guy Lauzon, an outcome Atkins lamented because of the support the MP had shown for the ethanol project. At least, he said, the party in power didnít change which could have meant starting from square one in terms of the funding commitment.
During the campaign, Kilger took credit for fighting for the Seaway project, partly because of the savings personally invested into it by farmers and other residents of the area: "Although the road has been long, we have reached our goal."
Earlier this year, it was announced that the Seaway project was one of seven successful applications under the federal program. However, various agreements under the program had to be finalized before the funding was signed off by Natural Resources Minister John Efford.
Although the cheque has not yet been received, Atkins called the financing a "major milestone" in the history of the project. Itís the comfort level other backers needed in order to finally climb on board, he said.