The major realignment of the Trans-Canada Highway project set for Bonshaw is one step closer to completion, though there are still 10 property owners refusing to sell.
The first draft of the environment assessment for the plan to reroute part of the highway around Churchill to Bonshaw has been completed and is now online.
An environmental assessment is required for any project that may receive government funding under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Under CEAA, the assessment must be posted for public consultation for 28 days.
Environmental assessments examine any possible risks to wildlife, waterways, human health or other potential environmental risks.
The assessment of the realignment did not find any significant adverse environmental impacts associated with the project.
The assessment did recommend putting in place erosion control measures, though that is not unusual when dealing with a construction project of this magnitude.
Residents continue to hold out
For construction to proceed, the Department of Transportation still needs to acquire 10 properties from land owners who have refused to sell.
Brian Thompson, director for the Land and Environment Division of DOT, says his department would like to see residents get a fair price for their property.
"For the most part, we're seeing the property owners are like you or I would be. They want to ensure they're getting proper value for the property they're selling and of course we respect that. We would like to reach a mutually agreed upon selling price for all the properties," Thompson said.
The property owners still holding out have received hand-delivered letters, nine have been told to accept government's offer by next Tuesday or face expropriation. One owner has already been told he'll be forced to sell.
"The last thing that government wants to do is expropriation, but unfortunately we do have a scheduled project start date and that's in mid-September. If we can't reach an agreement, prior to a certain date, we do have to look at the expropriation process, essentially, to secure the start date," Thompson said.
The province's share of the construction costs has risen from $8 million to $9 million, a figure that Ottawa is said to match. Conservative finance critic Steven Myers says he thinks costs will continue to increase.
"Between the $4 million for the land deal, the cost of actually building the highway, we're probably going to look at $24 million before this thing is done," Myers told CBC News.
There will be a public meeting within 15 days to discuss the findings of the environmental assessment.