Caroline Wawzonek is expressing some optimism that a new fish plant in Hay River may be built sooner than anticipated.
Wawzonek, the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI), noted the government’s mandate document for the 19th Legislative Assembly estimated a new plant would be operational by the fall of 2023.
“We are trying to actually accelerate that, if possible,” she said. “I think there was some uncertainty about how quickly we’d be able to get the RFP out, and we were able to get the RFP out this fall. And also just the way things have shaken down, we’re actually hoping that construction could begin this coming spring and summer. And depending on how that moves along, we may well be operational in 2022.”
Wawzonek explained there are two parts to the RFP – the request for proposals – for a design-build contract.
“So what that means is the first part is really to get more detailed design,” she said. “We obviously have a fairly good sense of the ask that we’re making for those that are going to be bidding, but we’re asking for the design portion of the contract by January. And then the building portion to be completed thereafter, likely into May, and at that point the full contracts would hopefully be awarded. And we could be off to the races for the construction season.”
A tender for construction was cancelled last year after two bids for the work were both in excess of $14 million, which was significantly over budget.
In January of 2019, the federal government and the GNWT announced joint funding of $8.9 million to build a new fish plant in Hay River.
Wawzonek believes the new process could result in a fish plant proposal that the government can afford.
She noted the project was reviewed by Memorial University of Newfoundland, which has experience in terms of the fishing industry in Canada, both freshwater and ocean fishing.
The review reduced the size of the plant by about 32 per cent, Wawzonek said, noting that also reduces the cost to build and the operations and maintenance cost in the future.
“But they also were able to support us with being a plant that has greater flexibility in the kinds of products to be delivered,” she said of the Memorial University review, adding that will help the fishing industry evolve and grow, and adapt to markets.
The existing fish plant in Hay River is owned by the federal Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation.
Wawzonek visited Hay River on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 for meetings on the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery with a number of organizations, including the Tu Cho Fishers Co-operative, the NWT Fishermen’s Federation, K’atlodeeche First Nation, the NWT Metis Nation and representatives of fishers in Fort Providence.
“We’re not quite done all of our outreach, but it was a busy two days,” she said, noting she is still relatively new to the ITI portfolio.
The minister said she wanted to have one-on-one meetings with all the different players in the industry, and those who may be interested in becoming more involved.
Wawzonek said other things were discussed besides a new fish plant, including training opportunities, establishing collection stations on the lake and revitalizing the winter fishery.
The ITI minister said she also plans to meet with fishers on the north side of Great Slave Lake.