The Arctic communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., could be linked year-round by a new road, depending on the results of a feasibility study that the federal government announced Thursday.
Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl announced $975,000 to study building a 140-kilometre highway between the two communities.
Construction of an all-weather highway is a priority for the Northwest Territories, Strahl, the minister responsible for a new regional economic development agency for the North, said in a release.
"The completion of the Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik segment is a logical first step and would provide Canada with a road to the Arctic coast," Strahl stated in the release.
"This is why we are so proud to support this feasibility study."
Work already begun
The funding announced Thursday will be put towards environmental studies, consultations with stakeholders and preliminary route designs.
Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Merven Gruben told CBC News that work has already begun on the study.
"It's a study that's going to be along the actual alignment of the Tuk-Inuvik all-weather road, so we got to go through the streams and creeks and see if they're fish-bearing, and also if there's any bear denning, archeology sites, pingos [hills with a core of ice], all that kind of stuff we have to do before the actual construction," Gruben said Thursday.
The $975,000 comes from a total $32 million in federal economic stimulus funding earmarked for northern Canada. The federal government has not committed any funds for actual construction of the road.
Strahl said any future construction and ongoing maintenance of the highway would create "significant short- and long-term employment opportunities" in the region.
Currently, people travel between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk mainly by air, or by driving on an ice road during the winter.
Gruben said northerners have wanted an all-weather road between Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik for 30 years.
"I think the biggest thing we've been always pushing for is this connection for the three oceans. You have the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic and then the Arctic ocean all connected by road," he said.
"Tuk is going to be really booming in the next few years. You've got all the oil and gas, you got the deep-sea port — we want to put a deep-sea port in there, as well, that will tie right in with the all-weather road. It's just a really good win-win for everybody."
Strahl also made funding announcements Thursday in Canada's other two territories.
He said $1.1 million will go towards improving recreational facilities in four Nunavut communities: Taloyoak, Chesterfield Inlet, Igloolik and Sanikiluaq.
As well, $635,000 in federal money will help the Yukon Film and Sound Commission produce 13 one-minute television ads promoting that territory as a film production location. The funding will run over two years.