City granted federal funding for aging water line

Construction to begin on 50-year-old pipe at Yellowknife River  

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NWT MP Michael McLeod, Bernadette Jordan, federal minister of rural economic investment, and City of Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty were on hand at the Snowking castle to announce a 26 million federal investment for a replacement of the municipality’s water intake line.

A long-awaited federal decision on the city’s aging water intake line was made this week as the Government of Canada announced $26 million in funding, Wednesday.

Bernadette Jordan, federal minister of Rural Economic Development was in Yellowknife to announce $25.8 million toward the water pipeline to replace the city’s current aging pipe between the Yellowknife River and the Yellowknife plant. The city will provide $8.6 million toward the project.  

Jordan made the announcement at the Snowking castle with Mayor Rebecca Alty, NWT Member of Parliament Michael McLeod, and the Yellowknives Dene Drummers. 

Jordan said in an interview Wednesday that an application by the city last June for Infrastructure funding was granted – largely to address northern climate change and disaster relief challenges.

Federal money specifically comes from a $2 billion federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund which is geared toward helping communities build infrastructure to deal with natural disasters.

“The effects are coming from extreme weather,” said Jordan when asked why the funding was couched in responding to climate change and disaster relief. “In the North, we are facing challenges with climate change and flooding specifically and that is why it is a good fit for this fund.”

Along with mitigating flooding and reducing damage to property, money is intended to protect local drinking water supplies during extreme weather. According to a federal government news release, the upgrades will increase the capacity for flood water retention.

Jordan deferred questions regarding the price tag to the city as it appears the price tag over the last decade has increased substantially. In a 2011 presentation to council for example, the capital cost for a new water intake line was in and around $10 million.  

Getting federal investment on the water intake line, which was first built in 1969 by the federal department of Health has long been a contentious issue in the city. The city’s application last year asked for a 75 per cent funding contribution from the Government of Canada through Infrastructure Canada last June following a 2017 report conducted by AECOM Canada LTD. The report recommended the city draw water from the Yellowknife River for $27 million, in contrast to the other option of getting water from Yellowknife Bay for eight to 10 million.

The city had also tried to get federal funding for the water line during the environmental assessment of the Giant Mine Remediation project in the area, but the federal government refused.

Alty said in a press release that the funding was a “significant investment.”

“The City’s successful application for Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation funding, supported by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the North Slave Metis Alliance, represents a significant investment in the city’s structural and natural capacity to mitigate the potential economic, environmental and social impacts of climate change, and provides Yellowknife with the ability to respond to disasters triggered by natural hazards and extreme weather events,” she said.

With files from Brett McGarry

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