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Bridge goes nowhere years after purchase
Infrastructure intended to span river leading to popular Gjoa Haven fishing spot remains after six years

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, May 11, 2015

Eight kilometres by road from Gjoa Haven rest the materials for a 29-metre bridge intended to span the Swan River. But six years since they were purchased, the community has yet to see them put to any use.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Swan River Bridge in Gjoa Haven, purchased in 2009, still needs to be built so the community can use it. - photo courtesy of Tony Akoak

Bought with federal funding in 2009 through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency's Community Adjustment Fund, more dollars were required for the actual installation.

"All the materials were gathered but the actual labour I don't think was included in the program. Just the purchase of the bridge itself," said Art Stewart, director for the Transportation Policy and Planning division of the Government of Nunavut's Department of Economic Development and Transportation. That division is responsible for planning road, marine and air infrastructure in the territory.

The community has been waiting several years for the Swan Lake Bridge to be installed so they can put it to use.

Gjoa Haven's MLA Tony Akoak says the components of the bridge sat outside the government office for quite some time, until it was finally moved near the actual site at the river a year or two ago.

Stewart explains the process.

"One stall was when the bridge was delivered to the community. There wasn't loaders large enough to move the actual steel to the site. The stumbling block is trying to find funding for it, for the actual labour."

He says his division is looking to start construction this year, through the Community Initiatives Transfer Fund. That fund has $1.5 million available this year for the territory's 25 hamlets.

The hamlets are responsible for submitting proposals for projects, which include access roads and maintenance work on sealift areas and docks. Between 15 and 20 communities normally apply.

"Usually the request for funds exceeds the number of dollars," said Stewart.

The deadline for proposals was May 1, and Stewart could not guarantee that the Swan River Bridge would be prioritized over other proposals. However, he seemed to think it would be a multi-year project.

"Hopefully only two years."

Stewart did not want to disclose the approximate cost of construction because the contract will be put out to tender. Additional material will need to be purchased, such as timber, cement and fastening spikes.

The bridge will be good for the community and will allow people to go out on the land with their vehicles, said Akoak.

"It makes it a lot easier to cross the river. In the earlier season it's hard to get across because the river is just going, it's flowing pretty fast."

People are usually headed out to Thirty Mile Lake, "quite a ways up," where they fish. It's only at the end of the season, sometime in August, that the crossing can be made with ATVs when the river is at its lowest.

"We're also trying to make a trail out that way. They did some of it, but it was never completed."

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