June 14, 2011
Nanisivik, Nunavut naval facility project delayed at least two years
Environmental and funding concerns are adding years to the construction of an Arctic naval port considered crucial to enforcing Canadian control of the Northwest Passage.
The Nanisivik port in Nunavut was originally supposed to be at least partially up and running by next summer, following a promise made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007.
But no construction is planned for this summer and defence officials admit that the refuelling station, intended to give the navy a permanent presence at the eastern gate of the contested passage, won’t be operating for years.
“Construction work at the Nanisivik Naval Facility will begin in 2013,’’ said a defence department spokesman in an e-mail. “It is forecasted that the (facility) will be operational in 2016.’’
Officials weren’t immediately available to explain why.
But correspondence with the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which is conducting the project’s environmental review, suggests the extra years have been added to the project through a combination of bureaucratic delays, funding problems and environmental liabilities lingering from the site’s previous life as a lead-zinc mine.
“There are many challenges operating in the North and DND now has a better understanding of the site condition,’’ wrote the spokesman.
Canadian ships operating in the Arctic are now supplied through ports in Eastern Canada or from supply ships that accompany them. That limits their ability to respond to emergencies.
Nanisivik is intended to allow military vessels to operate with more speed and flexibility as shipping volumes increase in the Northwest Passage.
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