KIA says route would have least environmental impact

Engineering report backs eastern route for road to Kivalliq


A draft report from engineering firm SNC-Lavalin recommends the so-called eastern route for a road connecting the Kivalliq with Churchill and southern Manitoba, says the Kivalliq Inuit Association's project manager.

In an interview, Dawn Brigham said the eastern route, which would stretch 1,230 kilometres from Rankin Inlet to the current end of the Manitoba highway system in Gillam, is the KIA's preferred option.

Churchill, Arviat and Whale Cove would all be connected to the highway by feeder routes. The total cost of the road has been pegged at $1.2 billion, and construction likely wouldn't start until at least 2012.

The eastern route also won the most support during a series of public meetings held in 2006 in 15 Kivalliq and Manitoba communities. But there were misgivings: some residents expressed concerns a road will make it easier for alcohol and drugs to enter the remote communities, and others suggested a rail link would be more efficient. The Hudson Bay railroad already reaches Churchill, while the highway system doesn't.

Brigham said train tracks have to be more level than a road, and the cost and environmental impact of rail is too great.

"You have to keep it flatter so there's going to be a lot more fill."

And in an issue of Caribou News in Brief published this summer, Darrell Hedman, the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board's vice chairman, said he's concerned the eastern route would disrupt the migration of the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd.

"That's usually [the herd's] corridor when they're going home," he told the newsletter. Hedman also expressed concern about the impact bridges would have on the Seal, Churchill and Caribou rivers, which the route would cross.

But Brigham said the eastern route would have the smallest impact on the environment.

"One of the reasons the KIA preferred [the eastern route] is because it has the least impact on migrational routes than any of the routes that were chosen," she said. "No matter what way you go you're going to have to engineer river crossings."

The next step is to secure funding from federal, territorial and provincial governments. To do that, the KIA will need a business case and detailed engineering plans for the route. Brigham said she hoped those would be ready "early in the new year."

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