Infrastructure minister Diane Archie in the Legislative Assembly.
Regulators have decided not to close the file on a planned access road north of Wrigley after an appeal from the NWT government.
The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board previously said it would consider withdrawn a proposal to build a road from Wrigley to the Mount Gaudet quarry, since nothing had happened since late 2020.
In response, the GNWT insisted there had been “much work undertaken to advance this important community capacity project” and asked the board to keep the file open.
Last week, the regulator acquiesced and said it “will reactivate the applications,” but set the territorial government a deadline of October 7 to provide a range of documents demonstrating progress has actually taken place.
The 15-km all-season gravel road, which would replace an existing winter road, has been in development since 2019.
The territorial government has framed the project as a “capacity-building” venture for Wrigley’s Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, but the First Nation has raised multiple concerns.
Smoothing out those issues is one reason why things are taking time, the GNWT told the regulator in a letter that followed a meeting between the two on September 15.
The delay, the GNWT wrote, reflects “our desire to undertake additional dialogue with the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation to address community concerns that were raised.”
Earlier this month, Chief Lloyd Moses of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation said one frustration is that federal cash for the project is being given to the NWT government, “which will allow them to invest in equipment and infrastructure – that will remain theirs – and fund contractors from outside the community.”
The road would run through a proposed conservation zone named Pehdzéh Kı ̨Ndeh. Ownership of that land and its resources remains uncertain and land claims are unsettled. Community members said the presumption that the GNWT owns the Mount Gaudet quarry was also concerning.
“At one point, the GNWT told me I was stealing gravel from them, but they don’t mind using it for all their projects,” Moses said.
Moses also worries about water contamination. While a winter road already exists between Wrigley and Mount Gaudet, the proposed all-season road would cross several watercourses in traditional land-use areas.
Moses said the community is in talks with the territory to ensure these water bodies will be protected during and after construction.
On Twitter, NWT infrastructure minister Diane Archie wrote: “I’m pleased to hear the Mount Gaudet Access Road applications before the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board have been reactivated.
“The GNWT looks forward to working with the board, community of Wrigley and other stakeholders on this capacity-building project.”