North

Dempster fibre line won't be complete until 2025, documents show

The 800-km fibre optic line connecting Dawson City, Yukon, and Inuvik, N.W.T., was originally supposed to be in service by 2017. Now it's projected to be complete in 2025.

The 800-km line was originally supposed to be in service by 2017

The proposed fibre optic line would close the 'Canada North Fibre Loop,' making the system less vulnerable to outages. (Dave Croft/CBC)

A major fibre optic line that will eventually connect Yukon and the Northwest Territories won't be in service until 2025.

According to an environmental assessment document obtained by the opposition Yukon Party, construction on the 800-kilometre line between Dawson City, Yukon and Inuvik, N.W.T., is scheduled for completion in spring of 2025.

A separate report published in September by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) says "construction activities" were set to start in the winter of 2020 and will "occur year-round for five years."

In the Legislative Assembly Tuesday, opposition leader Stacey Hassard said the project has seen repeated delays under the Liberal government.

"Despite the promise by the Liberals [that] they would accelerate the project, and despite the guarantee by the premier that the work would be done over two years ago, the application [to YESAB] was only submitted in August," Hassard said.

The project was first announced in 2015 by the then-Yukon Party government, with completion projected for 2017. Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai said the Liberals, who took power in 2016, inherited a project that had seen little work done.

Pillai said the Dempster line is a complex engineering project and the government won't rush construction.

"Every one of these lines have gone through challenging terrain like this, with 1,100 different water crossings [and] really significant directional drilling underneath the Mackenzie Delta," Pillai said. "Let's take the time to get it right."

The project cost has also grown from an original estimate of $32 million. On Tuesday, Pillai put the projected cost at $85 million. The federal government is putting up $59 million for the line, with Northwestel, which will operate the line, contributing $15 million.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Northwestel is contributing $5 million to the Dempster fibre project. In fact, the company is contributing $15 million.
    Nov 18, 2020 12:46 PM CT

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