Board warns N.W.T. gov't as work continues on Tlicho road without required approvals
Land and water board issues stern warning to N.W.T. Department of Infrastructure
Contractors working on the Tlicho all-season road are going ahead with work without proper approvals from the Wek'e'zhii Land and Water Board, but so far no action has been taken against the lead agency on the project, the Northwest Territories Department of Infrastructure.
"The Board has become aware that several quarries of the Tlicho All-Season Road Project have been constructed without first receiving approval from the Board, as required by law," wrote Joe Mackenzie, Chair of the Wek'e'zhii Land and Water Board in a Dec. 20 letter to the department.
Under the terms of the water licence and land use permit authorizing construction of the road, the department is required to submit detailed plans for any new quarries at least 90 days before starting to quarry.
Despite repeated reminders from the board that the plans and board approval of them are required, new quarries have been developed without them.
"GNWT-INF has consistently failed to provide submissions to the Board according to the timelines required by the Licence, Permit and direction of the board," wrote Mackenzie.
Construction of the 97 km two-lane gravel road from Highway 3 to Whatì began in the fall. Though the water licence and land use permit were issued to the Government of the Northwest Territories' Department of Infrastructure, the road is being designed and built by its P3 partner Northstar Infrastructure, a consortium composed of Kiewit Canada Development Corp. and the Tlicho government, with Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, Hatch Corp. and Thurber Engineering Ltd. as design and engineering partners.
The quarrying plans require, among other things, geotechnical analysis to ensure the material to be quarried does not pose a risk of acidic chemicals or heavy metals leaching into the surrounding environment.
Because of the repeated failure of the department to live up to the terms of its licences, CBC wanted to find out what it would take for the land and water board to actually take action to enforce the licence.
Responding to CBC's request for an interview, Wek'e'zhii Land and Water Board executive director Ryan Fequet said the board has an unwritten policy requiring written questions in advance of any recorded interviews. CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices prohibit providing questions in advance of interviews.
Fequet said inspectors and the board have the authority to take action, such as issuing a stop work order. He said inspectors are the first line of enforcement — "they're the ones on the ground." The board has the authority to suspend licences.
Fequet said, to his knowledge, it has never taken that step.
Other issues noted in gov't inspections
Earlier, N.W.T. Department of Lands inspectors noted other repeated failures, including food waste being left in an open construction waste container despite warnings not to do so, and garbage and other waste being left behind as the main camp advanced northward as road construction proceeded.
In mid-December, a frozen pipe led to a spill of an estimated 15,000 litres of grey water and sewage at the main construction camp, 53 kilometres up the road. The inspector commended the contractors for their efforts to address the spill.
According to an inspection report, there was also a close call with a loader attempting to establish an ice crossing on the James River, 70 km up the road.
"Fortunately the equipment didn't break through the ice and it was reported to the inspectors that no spill or damage to the river bank occurred," wrote the inspector.
The camp was scheduled to shut down for the season as of Dec. 21. At its peak this winter, more than 100 people were working on the road. During the shutdown, only three workers will remain on site.
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that construction of the Tlicho all-season road would connect Highway 3 to Gameti. In fact, the road will link the highway to Whatì.Jan 02, 2020 11:19 AM CT