Have Alternatives to a Fixed Link Been Meaningfully Explored?

Reference Number

Access to the island year-round, especially for medical services, is a problem that needs a solution. But outside of the environmental concerns (which I expect will be investigated), it is not clear that replacing or improving the existing ferry and ice road operations is not a sufficient or proportional fix.

The Project Team appears to mischaracterize other alternatives. At an October 5, 2021 public meeting, the Project Team rejected that a “greener” icebreaker ferry (that can be used all year long) was feasible, stating a Health Impact Assessment "identifies the fixed link as the only solution to effectively meet the health and safety issues" posed by a lack of year-round access.(Summary of an Initial Project Description of a Designated Project, pg. 19 PDF). But the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) does not make such a claim, noting that "the HIA does not focus on alternatives to the current transportation options but rather discusses the health impacts due to current transportation options." (Initial Project Description, pg. 1389 PDF, emphasis added).

The HIA report states that the health and well-being of members of the GIFN community face negative impacts as the current Ferry is aging, it has climbing repair and maintenance costs, the ice road season is reducing, and the Scoot/Airboat may not be reliable or appropriate. (pg 1392). But the HIA does not say the fixed link is the "only solution", instead concluding potential improvements include "adding new instrastructure, replacing old infrastructure or considering other options such as a bridge" (emphasis added). It goes on to state that community members identified "improving the scheduling for the Ferry" and "having a Members-only line" would "all be potential changes which can improve their overall health and well-being." (pg 1392). 

The initial rough order of magnitude costs for the fixed link is estimated at $250 million. A new ferry, larger ferry, increased ferry schedule, Members-only line, or ice-breaker ferry which could operate year-round will not cost as much, can meet the current issues, and do not include the same potential magnitude of environmental harms. It is unclear if the Project Team is interested in meaningfully exploring these alternatives (compare Project Team comments pg. 37 with the Neegan Burnside Preliminary Evaluation of Engineering and Environmental Alternatives Report (2008) at pgs 185-87). While the Project Team identifies 'pack ice and corridor movement' as potential issues, ice breakers to mitigate this are already intended to be included in the 'fixed link' plan (pg 32).

Neegan Burnside states that it was retained to "help complete a first step toward realizing a fixed link" (pg. 130). Notwithstanding its focus on a particular outcome, improving the existing ferry and ice road operations was in the community's top 3 preferred alternatives (of seven, behind road link through bridge and road link through tunnel) (pg. 170). I hope the potential improvements above, and their costing and feasibility, are better investigated and more accurately represented as the assessment continues. 

Submitted by
Adam Lawson
Public Notice
Public Notice - Public Comments Invited on a Summary of the Initial Project Description
Date Submitted
2022-05-29 - 11:49 PM
Date modified: