Bids on new Hay River fish plant much higher than government expected

Clark Builders offered to build the plant for $14.5M. Arctic Canada said it could do the job for $14.1M. In January, the territorial and federal gov'ts announced $8.9M for the project.

Fisher says plan to triple production unrealistic without improvements to commercial fishing fleet

The federal and territorial governments committed $8.9 million toward the construction of a new fish plant in Hay River. The bids that came in to build it sit closer to $15 million. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

The plan to build a new fish plant in Hay River has suffered a setback.

The only two companies that responded to a tender for the project submitted bids that are considerably higher than what the Northwest Territories government budgeted for it.

The initial tender the government sent out for construction of the plant was scheduled to close Aug. 19. Five days before that deadline, the government extended it to Aug. 30. According to the Department of Infrastructure, two bids were received before that deadline.

Clark Builders and Arctic Canada Construction submitted bids that day. Clark offered to build the plant for $14.5 million. Arctic Canada said it could do the job for $14.1 million.

In January, the territorial and federal governments announced $8.9 million for the project.

The $8.9 million is for construction only and does not include the costs of design. It also does not include the cost of automated filleting machinery, which the government has already bought. The federal government contributed $1.45 million toward the cost of that machinery.

The project is being managed by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. It was unable to say how much was spent on the design of the plant or the processing machinery that will be used in it. The machinery is reportedly in storage on government property in Hay River.

In the Legislature, Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann said the total amount the government had budgeted for the plant was $12 million.

The government planned to begin construction of the 1,600-square-metre facility this summer, with completion scheduled for the fall of 2020.

A spokesperson for the department said he "believes" the goal now is to begin construction next fall, but added the fate of the plant will be up to the next Legislative Assembly. 

Hay River's existing fish plant, seen here in January, was constructed in 1971. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Action, not 'big promises,' needed

If it is built, the bigger, better, more automated plant will have an annual processing capacity of 1.4 million kilograms of fish. That's about three times the amount fishers are now catching.

The man in charge of the co-operative, who is supposed to maintain and operate the plant once it is built, is doubtful that local fishers have the capacity to increase their catch that dramatically. Bert Buckley says the government has largely pushed ahead with its plan without involving fishers.

"They use the [N.W.T.] Fisherman's Federation to sign documents or whatever, just so the government or ITI can get money to do what they're doing, but that's not helping us one single bit," he said.

The new processing plant has been promised for many years, according to Buckley, who added fishermen need help with such things as loan guarantees or other measures to help finance improvements to their vessels.

"I hope, with the new government coming, we can actually get access to a building, instead of big promises and no action," he said.


  • An earlier version of this story provided incorrect dates for the bids. The bids were received some time before Aug. 30, according to the Department of Infrastructure.
    Sep 16, 2019 1:34 PM CT


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