Road report
Fort Smith gets closer

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (May 08/00) - An environmental screening has been completed, moving Fort Smith one step closer to getting a short cut south.

Smith is seeking approval to build an extension to Highway 58, which runs from High Level to Fort Vermilion, Alta. The extension would go from Fort Vermilion to Garden River and on to Peace Point in Wood Buffalo National Park.

The report, compiled by Westworth and Associates Environmental Ltd., has been forwarded to Parks Canada for their consideration, said Richard Power, project co-ordinator.

"I was in Edmonton Tuesday (May 2), and I picked the report up and we've gone over it," Power said. "We're waiting for park superintendent Josie Weninger to get back to town."

Power said following the meeting with Parks Canada, the town will begin the 45-day posting period, which will give anyone an opportunity to attend public meetings and voice their concerns over the road.

"We'll give a couple weeks notice to the groups, so people can be organized," he said. "We'll be holding open houses in Fort Smith, Fort Chipewyan, Jean d'Or and Edmonton."

Power said he's pleased with the quality of the report and sees no potential problems arising from the screening.

"Things are moving along quite well," he said. "We don't see anything in the environmental assessment that would be a major concern that we can't mitigate, so things are positive."

The road south is good news for more than just Fort Smith, Power said.

"It's good news for all the communities affected by this," he said. "Little Red River won the hockey tournament here this winter and it took them almost 13 hours to get here.

"If they were able to come up the winter road, it would have taken them three or three-and-a-half hours at the most -- they would have saved 800 kilometres."

Weninger could not be reached for comment at press time.