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Small craft harbour opened
First of its kind in Nunavut features fixed wharf, breakwater and dredged channel at Pangnirtung

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 23, 2013

Set against the majestic backdrop of the Pangnirtung fjord, Mayor Sakiasie Sowdluapik could barely contain his excitement as he announced the official opening of his community's small craft harbour.

NNSL photo/graphic

With spectacular scenery in the background, interpreter Eric Joamie and Pangnirtung Mayor Sakiasie Sowdluapik give a speech at the opening of the small craft harbour. - Myles Dolphin/NNSL photo

On a sunny, pristine morning, he smiled and nodded throughout speeches made by special guests, which included Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea and Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak. The speakers all touted the economic benefits of the federal government-funded project.

The $40.5-million infrastructure, built over five years, is the territory's first small craft harbour and features a fixed wharf, breakwater, marshaling area, sealift ramp, dredged channel and floating dock.

It will be managed and operated by the Pangnirtung Harbour Authority.

Sowdluapik said the harbour was a long time coming.

"We have been in discussions to build a small craft harbour since the 1970s," he said to hundreds of Pangnirtungmiut.

"This will have a major impact on the economy of Pangnirtung for many years to come. It will ensure the fisheries will continue to grow and will create jobs and other economic spinoffs."

He thanked past Pangnirtung mayors for lobbying in favour of the harbour and singled out elder Peterloosie Qappik for his tireless efforts in helping bring the project to fruition.

Fishers such as Peter Kilabuk, who purchased a new multi-purpose vessel this summer, said the new harbour will improve and expand the inshore fishery in a number of ways.

"This is great for the safety of our equipment," he said, adding the breakwater will protect vessels from strong wind and waves.

"It'll allow easier access to offload our fish and will ensure fresher produce as a result. How can you not be happy about something like this?"

Although the initial announcement for the creation of a small craft harbour came during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Pangnirtung in 2009, the need for one has existed for many decades.

Pangnirtung senior administrative officer Ron Mongeau first arrived in the hamlet in 1977, and he can remember the issue being raised at council meetings then.

He said the community was surrounded by rich natural resources but just couldn't take advantage of them.

"Finally, after a number of years we began to lobby more intensely (for the harbour)," he said.

"Then, the Government of Nunavut commissioned a report, looking for the best spot to build one. It was determined, through a series of variables, that Pangnirtung was the best place."

The report in question, the Nunavut Small Craft Harbours Report, was developed in 2004 and released a year later.

In it, the report supports Nunavut's request for harbour infrastructure in seven communities, namely Pangnirtung, Clyde River, Qikiqtarjuaq, Pond Inlet, Chesterfield Inlet, Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk.

It proposed to build one harbour per year for seven years, or build all seven over four years.

"The greatest economic benefit will accrue in the four Baffin Island communities primarily due to the well established, but evolving turbot and shrimp fisheries," it states.

The report states out of the seven communities, only Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq had existing infrastructure that offered minimal protection for its vessels.

"Compared to the rest of Canada, Nunavut is a century behind with respect to harbour infrastructure," it states.

Pangnirtung's old wharf was only accessible to small vessels and only at half or higher tide, while trawlers had to anchor offshore in order to offload turbot onto smaller vessels, a very dangerous practice to carry out a high tide.

The dredging of the channel will now allow for much safer practices and larger vessels, such as sealift and cruise ships, will be able to berth during all tide conditions.

Mongeau said a few cruise ships made visits this summer but "four or five are already expected next year," which could be a significant economic injection into the community.

He hopes the ease of access for fishers will increase production at the local fish processing plant.

"We would like to see the (Pangnirtung Fisheries) plant running 11 or 12 months a year," he said.

"This will add value to the product and create employment in the community."

The community of 1,300 has approximately 250 fish harvesters, who own roughly 150 vessels.

Shea said the importance of this harbour cannot be overstated.

After the ceremony, she told Nunavut News/North a lot of information had been gathered and processed since 2009, which will be put to use for the creation of future small craft harbours in Nunavut.

"The logistics, materials and supplies of this project will inform us on future projects," she said.

"A lot has been learned from this five-year project."

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