Construction of a 13-kilometre all-season road in the Sahtu is being held up by a hiring delay as nobody appears ready to meet the territorial government’s price.
Work on the first phase of the Prohibition Creek project, a seven-kilometre stretch outside Norman Wells from Canyon Creek to Christina Creek, was initially expected to begin more than a year ago.
More than $20 million is being invested to upgrade the road, between Tulita and Norman Wells, into an all-season road in two phases. Ultimately, the road would become part of the proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway.
However, in the legislature this week, Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby said she had been told that at the end of the first procurement attempt, the most suitable bid “came in too high and has not been accepted.”
Responding to Nokleby, infrastructure minister Diane Archie acknowledged: “Right now, we’re still in the procurement for the construction of the first phase.”
Archie said her department had “gone back to the contractor” and was “trying to look at ways to be able to get some of the work started.”
The Prohibition Creek road is seen as an important job creator for the Sahtu, bringing two years of construction work and associated employment to the region.
Had work started as planned in late 2020, the upgraded road was expected to open at the start of 2023.
Archie said she would “perhaps go back to the feds and have a relook at some of the funding options,” following the granting of more than $15 million from a pot of green infrastructure money in 2020.
“We’ll be chatting with Canada because we feel like this is important, it is a priority,” the minister said.
There’s no clear timeline for when the delayed project may now begin. Progress will rest on whether a contractor and the GNWT can agree financial terms.