Work on Mackenzie Valley fibre optic cable begins

Ledcor, the company chosen by the N.W.T. territorial government to build the $82-million Mackenzie Valley fibre optic cable, has begun early-stage work on the 1,154-kilometre fibre line.

But shipment of some equipment delayed by winter road restrictions

Early-stage work on the $82-million Mackenzie Valley fibre optic cable began in different parts of N.W.T. this week, though Mother Nature has delayed the shipment of some equipment. 

Ledcor, the Vancouver-based construction company chosen last year by the territorial government to build the 1,154-km fibre line, has four crews working this winter: one south of Inuvik and three in the Sahtu region. Each crew is made up of between six to 10 people and is currently removing brush and preparing work sites.

But other work — such as horizontal directional drilling across Great Bear River, where cable will be laid — can't get underway until Ledcor moves drills up the Mackenzie Valley winter road, past Wrigley, says David Hoff, a spokesperson for the company.

Ledcor had hoped to begin moving that equipment to work sites starting earlier this week.  

Current N.W.T. Department of Transportation restrictions prevent vehicles weighing more than 5,000 kilograms from travelling up the winter road to Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope.

Hoff says it's expected to be some time before those restrictions are lifted. 

"We are in their hands in terms of when they give us a green light."

Local jobs for 30 people

Ledcor estimates around 30 people will work on the installation of the fibre line — meant to improve the delivery of territorial government services like Telehealth — this winter.

Arthur Tobac, the general manager of the Yamoga Land Corporation's business arm, Ne'rahten Development Ltd., in Fort Good Hope, says more than a dozen people from the community will get work from the project as brush removers, general labourers and wildlife monitors. 

According to the territorial government, "oil and gas representatives have reported challenges with hiring local workers from the Sahtu due to lack of training and experience and drug and alcohol abuse."

But Tobac says workers in his community have been preparing for a year.   

"Even during the holiday season, a lot of them stayed clean and didn't drink at all. They're with young families, just starting out in life, and this is a positive thing for them."

Work on the fibre line is expected to wrap next winter, with the line going into operation in the summer of 2016.

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