North

N.W.T. government says new fish plant will be smaller but better

The territorial government is taking another crack at building a new fish processing plant in Hay River. Last week it put out a request for proposals for the design and construction of the plant, which would be used to process fish caught in Great Slave Lake.

Smaller processing plant in Hay River proposed after bids on initial design came in over budget

A worker empties a bucket of fish inside Hay River's fish plant, which was built in 1971. The territorial government has a request for proposals out to build a new plant. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

The N.W.T. government is taking another crack at building a new fish processing plant in Hay River.

Last week it put out a request for proposals for the design and construction of the plant, which would be used to process fish caught in Great Slave Lake.

Almost two years ago the federal and territorial governments announced $8.9 million in funding for a new processing plant, which they intended to open this summer. But the only two bids received on the project were both over $14 million.

The 2021-22 capital budget currently being debated in the legislature includes $11.1 million for the new plant. The government has also reduced the size of it. The building footprint is now 32 per cent smaller than the one initially proposed.

"Was this [reduction] based on efficiency or reducing the cost?" asked Hay River MLA Rocky Simpson on Wednesday, during review of the capital budget.

Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Caroline Wawzonek said after the failed first attempt to find a contractor to build the plant the government contracted a team from Memorial University to refine the initial design.

"That gave the opportunity to go out and make this a more efficient plant. I'm not going to go so far as to say it was a combination [of cost and efficiency], but one fact led to another and it ultimately turned out to be a better product," she said.

The government has already purchased the equipment for the plant. It will be operated by a local fishing co-operative under an MOU signed over the summer, said Wawzonek. The plant is designed to meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards.

"This plant gives the opportunity for the fishers that are utilizing it to access markets that they can't currently access," said Wawzonek. She said it will allow the catch to be sold in N.W.T. jails and hospitals and be exported to southern markets.  

An official said the plant will have the capacity to process the current catch from the lake, but that capacity can be expanded by keeping it open extra hours if the catch increases.

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