Meetings in some communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories are ongoing this week, as the government looks into extending the Mackenzie Highway to connect the community of Wrigley with the Arctic town of Inuvik.
The Mackenzie Valley Review Board has been travelling to communities in the Sahtu region, looking to hear people’s concerns and input on the idea of building an all-weather highway through the area.
It’s just the beginning of the environmental assessment for what’s sure to be a long-term project, regardless of the outcome.
“You’re trying to figure out what the untended consequences of the development might be, and predict the impacts and decide, ‘Do they matter?’ Can you avoid the bad and increase the good? That kind of stuff,” the board’s Alan Ehrlich says of the process. “To do that, you need to know what issues to focus your assessment on — what are you going to study, what issues are going to be considered to get up to the hearing.”
So far the highway idea is eliciting mixed feelings. Some say it will mean better access to food and supplies, which could bring down the high cost of living the remote areas of the territory. But others expect drug and alcohol problems to get worse in the communities because of that better access.
The meetings continue in Inuvik and Norman Wells this week.