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A chat with KIA on Grays Bay
Road and port project nearing reality, says Anablak

Beth Brown
Northern News Services
Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Kitikmeot Inuit Association is starting community consultations for the Grays Bay Road and Port Project - a proposed 227-km all-season road connecting the Tibbitt-Contwoyto winter rroad to a deep-water port at Grays Bay in the Coronation Gulf.

NNSL photo/graphic

Kitikmeot Inuit Association president Stanley Anablak, right, visited Yellowknife with KIA Executive Director Paul Emingak to present on the Grays Bay Road and Port project at the 44th Geoscience Forum on Nov. 16. - Beth Brown/NNSL photo

The community consultations, which run from Nov. 21 to Dec. 1, are required for the regulatory process - or application to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

"This project has been going on for a number of years now, and the reality of it is finally coming through," said KIA president Stanley Anablak.

Prior to the community consultations, Anablak visited Yellowknife, along with KIA executive director Paul Emingak, to provide an update on the Grays Bay project at the 44th Geoscience Forum on Nov. 16.

News/North took the opportunity to sit down with these two file managers, plus Scott Northey of the KIA subsidiary Nunavut Resources Corporation, to talk about their hopes for the lengthy Northern corridor.

The road is to be owned by KIA.

"That's the best part of the deal," said Anablak. "Once it is paid for, beneficiaries in the Kitikmeot will benefit from the royalties.

"For the first time we won't have to negotiate responsible development as we are the proponent," Anablak told members of the Geoscience Forum. "We will set terms that work for us, in order to develop this project in accordance with our Inuit values. We believe that we are best positioned to develop the balance between economic development and protection of the land, wildlife and community well being."

These balances will be presented in a NIRB application, once the project team has gathered all the needed pieces. Review requires information on engineering plans and environmental work, including how to mitigate interruption to migration patterns or calving areas and suppress construction dust that could damage the fishery.

A NIRB review could take as long as three years, Anablak told the forum.

"Money is the challenge right now," he said. "Hopefully we'll have some good news in the coming months."

Project cost is estimated at $487-million, $365-million of which has been applied for at the federal level. The community consultations are happening while KIA awaits funding approval from the federal government.

The remaining $122-million is expected to come from commercial user fees.

In July, KIA signed a memorandum of understanding with the GN to jointly develop the project through to completion.

"If the user fees are not sufficient to repay the debt, the Government of Nunavut has agreed to top up the revenue amounts to pay back the debt," he said.

That's because once it is built, the road will pay for itself in other ways, said Anablak.

"It will bring the cost down of everything from groceries to fuel to building houses in the Kitikmeot."

The road and port project was highlighted among Northern projects in an independent Canada Transport Act Review released in Dec. of 2015.

"They came to the conclusion that Canada would receive 21 times the benefit of the cost of putting it together," said Scott Northey of Nunavut Resources Corporation.

The review was independent and solicited no input from the KIA or Nunavut Resources Corp.

"(The report said) in terms of trade and transportation corridors, the best opportunity in Nunavut is this project. It offers the opportunity to connect Yellowknife with the Coronation Gulf."

The proposed port will have two berths for ships as well as a small craft harbour. It will be built to accommodate community-based travellers year-round. The port will also be equipped for oil spill response and act as an access point for search and rescue operations.

With a road and port in place, construction seasons won't depend solely on fall sealift. Instead materials can be delivered to the port and barged in as soon as the ice breaks up in spring.

"If the road is built we have the opportunity to receive all goods in a timely manner before winter comes in," said Paul Emingak.

He said sealift is not a financially sustainable model for residents.

"The price is outrageous," said Emingak. "It's the cost of doing business up North. We want to try to mitigate that cost so people benefit."

The road passes through the Slave Geological Province, a mineral rich area between Great Slave and the Coronation Gulf.

"There's huge mineral potential there that is currently untapped because it's very difficult to get access to the properties to really determine whether there's value there," said Northey. "A bunch of the tracts of land are actually Inuit-owned land, so to the extent that those properties get developed and turned into mines hugely benefits the Inuit as landowners."

The road will open up potential for new initiatives, exploration and economic development in the Kitikmeot as well as the Northwest Territories, said Northey.

That's why the KIA is working with other indigenous groups and territorial governments who are stakeholders of the project.

"They live the same issues that everyone else is going to table," said Northey. "If anyone is in the position to say, 'we're comfortable this is going to help us to mitigate the issues,' (KIA) is in the best position. It's not people from the South, it's not people from global mining companies, it's not bureaucrats in Ottawa, it's not bureaucrats from the South working in Iqaluit. It's Inuit telling other aboriginal groups saying, 'we've looked at this issue and we have exactly the same concerns you do, we think we've done a pretty good job mitigating the issues and trying to minimize the impacts to our collective environment.'"

KIA held meetings in Taloyoak on Nov. 21, Gjoa Haven on Nov. 23 and Kugaaruk on Nov. 24. The organization meets in Kugluktuk on Nov. 29, and in Cambridge Bay on Dec. 1.

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