Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made the commitment in the Mandate to strengthen connections with public and private sector partners to improve critical transportation infrastructure in our territory. Earlier this year, a workshop was held with key stakeholders to discuss how to restore safe and efficient access in the Hay River Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, the Hay River Harbour is the NWT’s marine gateway, providing services to residents and businesses up and down the Mackenzie River and into the high Arctic. The port’s strategic location, with connections to CN rail’s Meander subdivision and the public highway system, positions it as the portal between the Arctic coast and southern Canada. From there, marine resupply operations are undertaken for communities and industries, contributing to lowering the costs of living and doing business in the territory.
The harbour is also important to the NWT’s commercial fishing industry on Great Slave Lake, which has the potential to help diversify the NWT economy and increase locally produced food. Canadian Coast Guard operations, RCMP, and other federal agencies also make use of the port, providing important aids to navigation and marine safety.
The Department of Transportation’s primary role in the Hay River Harbour restoration project has been to advocate and facilitate discussions between government partners and stakeholder groups for improved marine facilities within the NWT. Key stakeholders, including several federal government agencies and private sector companies, met in Hay River on April 12th and 13th. The meeting provided user groups with a forum for discussing challenges and technical matters regarding future restoration efforts and the development of an efficient long-term harbour restoration strategy by the fall of 2016. The immediate goal of this strategy will be to address the challenges posed by the buildup of sediment restricting access in the harbour. Further steps would include developing a sustainable maintenance plan as part of the restoration strategy, to ensure the harbour’s full and unimpeded operational capacity in the future. Overall, this strategy is expected to have significant positive impacts on communities located up and down the Mackenzie River.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to inform you that the working group established during the workshop is already reporting progress. The working group is being led by the Harbour Authority, ensuring that those closest to the issue are directing efforts. In early May, a military surveillance aircraft recorded imagery over the harbour and East Channel entrance. As well, the Canadian Coast Guard has announced that it will start sounding operations in the Hay River Harbour in June. All data acquired will be used to support the technical requirements of the project, which could see initial dredging work take place sometime in 2017.
Identifying funding sources for the dredging plan remains an important project component. Funding for dredging activities is a federal responsibility and there have been positive indications from Canada that resources may become available to support restoration of the Hay River Harbour.
The February 2016 Canada Transportation Act Review report recommended a renewed commitment for federal funds to support dredging in Hay River and marine infrastructure in the NWT. The report followed a few months after the Review Panel held an engagement session in Yellowknife and was taken on a tour of the port of Hay River to see the issues in the harbour first-hand. This summer the federal government will further discuss the report’s findings with stakeholders. In addition to this report, the 2016-2017 federal budget identified $149 million in investments to revitalize small craft harbours across the country.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation will stay engaged with the federal government for more details on funding for such projects. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to develop an efficient and effective long-term solution to ensure the restoration of the Hay River Harbour for the safety and well-being of Northerners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.