Former mayor argues for relocating airport in Hay River

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A case was made for relocating the airport in Hay River at a recent public meeting.

However, there was little to no enthusiasm for the move from a representative of the GNWT.

The June 13 public information session was on updating the master plan for Merlyn Carter Airport.

Brad Mapes, a prominent businessperson and former mayor of Hay River, took the opportunity to express his long-standing view that the airport should be moved.

Mapes argued that a relocated airport would be good for the economic growth of the Hay River area.

“What I’m saying is we need to figure out how to have vision, how to see the future,” he said, noting that Hay River and the South Slave make up the only region in the NWT with opportunity for growth in the next five to 10 years, predicting there could be 300 new jobs and 1,000 additional residents.

At a recent public meeting, Brad Mapes, a prominent businessperson and former mayor of Hay River, argued for the relocation of the community’s airport.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Mapes suggested that an airport would be better located off Highway 5, perhaps in the Sandy Creek area.

“It’s similar to you build a baseball field and they’ll come,” he said. “You build an airport that’s going to accommodate the region. It makes more sense.”

Mapes pointed to a number of anticipated developments in the South Slave, including his own wood pellet mill in Enterprise and mining at Pine Point.

And he said that a bigger airport could attract new and different uses.

However, Mapes noted that the GNWT is not listening to the idea of relocating the airport.

Kevin Dragon, the manager of buildings and planning with the Air, Marine and Safety Division of the Department of Infrastructure, facilitated the June 13 information session.

Dragon explained the cost would be prohibitive to build a new airport, since it would involve new land to develop, duplicating infrastructure that already exists in Hay River, and decommissioning what’s there.

“The government doesn’t have an appetite for that,” he said.

In this photo from August of last year, Mayor Brad Mapes stands on the land targeted for development just south of the Hay River Regional Health Centre. NNSL file photo.
Former mayor Brad Mapes. NNSL file photo.

Dragon said the government is instead taking the stance of building “resiliency” into the existing airport.

“It’s probably not the answer that you want to hear,” he told Mapes, who has previously brought the idea to the GNWT.

Dragon added the idea has been looked at already.

“So we will have a discussion in this master plan,” he noted. “We have looked at studies that are basically looking at moving the airport based solely on the issues that we were having on the runway because it settles a lot.”

Mapes said there was talk in the late 1970s about relocating the airport from Vale Island, where he pointed out that land viewed for expansion are flood zone areas.