U.S. funding for Shakwak Project uncertain

Yukon's Liberal Party wants to know when the territory will receive funding from the United States for Alaska Highway improvements.

Liberals press Yukon government to secure funding from Washington for Shakwak Agreement

According to the 1977 Skakwak Agreement, the United States paid the cost of reconstruction of the highway between Haines, Alaska, and the border north of Beaver Creek, and Canada agreed to maintain the highway after reconstruction. The Yukon government became involved in the project in 1992 when the responsibility for highways was devolved to the territory. (istockphoto)

Yukon's Liberal Party wants to know when the territory will receive funding from the United States for improvements to the Alaska Highway and Haines Road. 

Liberal leader Sandy Silver pushed the Yukon government on its efforts to secure funding under the Shakwak Agreement, in Thursday's legislature sitting. 

"The trouble is we still don't know if the Shakwak Agreement will ever be funded again by the United States government," said Silver. "The premier himself admitted in his budget speech that funding remains in limbo." 

The Shakwak Agreement of 1977 covers the stretch of highway between Haines, Alaska, and the border north of Beaver Creek. Washington has provided more than $400 million over the past three decades for reconstruction of Canadian portions of the road, but funding disappeared from the American government's annual budget in 2013. 

The Yukon government has allocated 9.9 million dollars this fiscal year for the Shakwak project. That was money previously designated by the U.S. government for work on the highway. 

'Dependence will translate into dollars'

Silver said the Yukon government spent $180,000 to hire a company from South Carolina to lobby Congress to re-instate Shakwak funding.

He wants the government to explain what it has to show for it — and for the premier's trip to Washington in March 2014.

"It has been over a year since the premier travelled to Washington and took a bunch of pictures and posted them to his twitter account about the important senators that he met," said Silver.

Premier Darrell Pasloski said, as premier, he doesn't really carry a lot of clout in Washington.

"I know this is a very important job but you know within the United States government, we don't have that much influence."

Scott Kent, Yukon's minister of energy, mines and resources, says Yukon is working with the Alaska government on the issue.

He said Americans rely heavily on the link and said he's confident that dependence will translate into dollars.   

Pasloski has said that 85 per cent of the traffic on the Haines Road and Alaska Highway is "U.S. traffic."