North

Ledcor fires company that laid 1st two-thirds of Mackenzie Valley fibre line

Ledcor Development Ltd. has fired and is suing Rohl Enterprises, the primary subcontractor that installed the first two-thirds of the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic link, saying Rohl did not properly bury the cable and protect it against erosion.

Says it will install rest of cable line itself and repair work done by Rohl Enterprises

Ledcor Development Ltd. has fired and is suing Rohl Enterprises, the primary subcontractor that installed the first two-thirds of the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic link, saying Rohl did not properly bury the cable and protect it against erosion. (David Thurton/CBC)

Ledcor Development Ltd. has fired and is suing Rohl Enterprises, the primary subcontractor that installed the first two-thirds of N.W.T.'s $82 million Mackenzie Valley fibre optic link, saying Rohl did not properly bury the cable and protect it against erosion.

David Hoff, a spokesman for Ledcor, the company chosen by the N.W.T. government to oversee construction of the 1,154-kilometre fibre line, says it terminated its relationship with Rohl in October 2015 and is now installing the rest of the cable itself while repairing the work done by Rohl.

"We basically stepped in in their place," said Hoff, adding that under the project's P3 arrangement, the territorial government is not responsible for the extra costs now taken up by Ledcor.  

"We have now launched legal action [against Rohl] in order to recover some of the costs associated with repair and remediation from Rohl," said Hoff.

"The additional cost comes from the fact the repair and remediation is happening at a different location than where this season's construction is."

Deficiencies discovered in summer 2015

Hoff says Ledcor realized "the extent of the deficiencies" in Rohl's work during the summer of 2015. Some of the issues were also reported in a series of inspections conducted by the territorial government.

"They had to do with how the cable was not properly laid in the trench, and how the trench was not properly backfilled using the right erosion techniques," said Hoff.

Inspection reports began highlighting problems in 2015, including numerous occasions where inspectors alerted the contractor of areas where the fibre line cable was exposed or poking above ground. (Department of Lands Inspection Report)

According to an update filed in May 2015 by the N.W.T.'s Department of Finance, the design-build phase of the project is expected to be completed by September.

In the legislative assembly Wednesday, Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod said he expected the project to remain on schedule. 

But Hoff says Ledcor won't know that until the end of this winter.

"We've been challenged this season — not by the volume of work but by the lack of cold winter," said Hoff. 

Rohl's website says the company has experience building telecommunications infrastructure in remote locations in Canada requiring winter ice roads and camps, citing previously completed projects in Manitoba, Ontario and the N.W.T.

The company has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Lack of oversight?

Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, questioned McLeod on the degree to which the government is overseeing the project.

"First the [Deh Cho] bridge. Now the fibre optic line. And soon the hospital. What kind of oversight is the government providing on P3 projects to avoid the kind of problems that we seem to run into consistently with them?"

McLeod responded, "We have oversight on these projects and that's how we discover some of the deficiencies in the project."

He added the government asks companies for updates. 

"We can't assume that, with the new hospital, that we're going to run into difficulties too. I can assure members that the projects we enter into, we will have oversight because these are public dollars."

Green later tweeted that "nothing the minister said today in gives me confidence in GNWT oversight of P3s including Stanton renewal."

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