Infrastructure budgets are tight, but Industry Minister Katrina Nokleby says she’s instructing administration to find some money in the budget for work planned on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway after seeing the state of the road herself.
Invited to tour the region by Inuvik-Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler, Nokleby got a tour of the entire region from the Arctic Ocean to the Yukon border during the July 6 to 9 visit where she met with community leaders, visited some of Inuvik’s more unique spaces such as the Arts, Crafts and Technology Manufacturing Centre (ACTMC) along with the Inuvik Greenhouse, and got a first hand experience of the infrastructure challenges facing the Mackenzie and Beaufort Deltas.
“Having a background as an engineer, driving on the roads gives me some perspective than it would sitting in my office in Yellowknife hearing from my staff,” she said. “It was also good to get a sense of how the communities are dealing with Covid-19 and of course just to hear from people directly.
“It’s always hard when things are filtering up to me through the departments. Things get lost in translation sometimes, so it was good to have those one-on-one direct conversation.”
Nokleby praised local workers for their quick work repairing the road between Inuvik and the Airport, which was riddled with potholes following a series of intense rainstorms. She said she wanted to speed up work on the Dempster highway but the GNWT’s capital budget was stretched too thin, and that was before Covid-19 took a chunk out of the available resources.
In addition to getting a feel for the Dempster and ITH, Nokleby also met with local ministers and municipal governments, and even had a cross-territorial meeting across the NWT-Yukon border.
“Socially distancing, of course,” she said. “We did not cross the border, but met with some of the Yukon’s highway people for discussion around the Dempster and the need for some rehabilitation work. Right now we do a three-kilometre piece every year and it almost feels like a band-aid solution.
“In our discussion with my Yukon counterparts, we all agreed that there needs to be significant rehab money put into that road in concern for safety aspect of it. A wrong corner in the wrong weather with a super-bee and a pick-up and you could have a really bad accident. That was very eye opening for me.”
After visiting the border, Nokleby turned back north and got a tour of the road to Tuktoyaktuk, which she last visited as a consultant before the road officially opened.
She said a lot has changed in the three years it’s been in operation and the trip was enough to convince her to get her staff to dig through the couches for some spare change to get some key projects completed.
“There are areas of the ITH that do need work, so I have directed the department to look into that and see where we can find money to do some work now while we don’t have the same amount of tourism load on the highway,” she said. “Unfortunately, our summer construction season is coming to an end, so that does create a little time crunch.
“So we’re looking with what we can do in the meantime with the contractor in place to do some work on the ITH.”
While she got a taste of the Beaufort Delta’s woes, Nokleby said she needed to make a second trip to get more input for residents. She said she originally hoped to do the trip in August but now was just hoping to make the trip before the year’s end.