Build highway first, then pipeline, communities tell MP

Communities along the route of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project want to see the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Highway prior to any construction commencing on the pipeline, Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington said following a nine-day tour of the area.

The main focus of his trip, which ended Jan. 12, was to gauge support for the Mackenzie Valley Project along its proposed route, Bevington said.
Bevington met with community leadership, Aboriginal organizations, and Municipal governments in Deline, Tulita, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope and Inuvik. Bevington had meetings planned in Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, but was unable to make it due to the driving conditions on the ice roads. During the meetings, Bevington said he was told two projects need to move ahead prior to the pipeline: a road transportation system from Wrigley to Norman Wells, and another from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk.
“Those two … were considered a real priority by everybody to get going on,” he told The Hub on Thursday. “Everybody identifies these projects should start as soon as possible and would be a real asset to the development of a pipeline if these roads were in place. That’s not what the companies say, but that’s what the people say. I think that’s common sense.”
Many communities have developed plans to help mitigate some of the expected social and economic impacts of the pipeline. Bevington said they want to access some of the $500 million set aside in the Social Economic Impact Fund (SEIF) before construction on the pipeline begins. SEIF is a fund set aside by the federal government in July 2005 to mitigate the social impacts resulting from the MGP. Currently the Deh Cho and Inuvialuit will receive $150 million; the Gwich’in will receive $82 million; Tulita and Deline will receive $61; and Kasho Gotine and Colville will receive $57. The funding has been set aside for such things as social wellness, long-term training efforts, and community development.
“These plans are not going to be successful in most people’s minds unless we get going on them sooner rather than later,” Bevington explained. “The federal government’s position that these funds will not be released until construction of the pipeline is guaranteed is not going to be adequate to deal with the way they want to use the money. There’s a very strong feeling that we need to advance some of those funds in the very near future.”
Most of the communities he visited were also pleased with the JRP report on the pipeline.
“People generally felt the report was well-done,” Bevington said on Thursday. “Some people thought it was well-done in that it was cooked too long, but, by in large, they were comfortable with a lot of the recommendations.”
Getting to work on a road network along the valley is something the federal government can begin right away, Bevington said.
They talked about (infrastructure development) being one way to make the project more viable,” he said. “I think people – mostly in the valley – agree. Build some roads there and you’re going to reduce the cost of the development of a Mackenzie Valley pipeline.”