Canadian gov to fund runway upgrades for Inuvik, Northwest Territories airport

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A Canadian Forces Hercules C-130 from Winnipeg takes off from Inuvik’s airport in 2017. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was in Yellowknife Wednesday to announce money to lengthen and upgrade the Mike Zubko Airport runway. (David Thurton/CBC)
Two months after announcing $22 million to protect permafrost underneath Inuvik’s airport, the federal government has returned to the Northwest Territories to earmark millions more to upgrade its runway.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was in Yellowknife Wednesday to announce the federal government will provide “up to” $150 million over five years to extend and modernize the runway at Mike Zubko Airport, so it can accommodate a greater variety of military aircraft for Royal Canadian Air Force and NORAD operations.

The money will extend the runway by 3,000 feet and modernize its lighting, navigational and military aircraft landing systems.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Grant Hood, the Town of Inuvik’s senior administrative officer. “We think there’ll be opportunities for local businesses.”

Hood said that he hopes the runway extension will allow construction opportunities for local contractors. Once completed, he says the expansion “potentially open us up to maybe some other types of tourism as far as bigger planes being able to land here,” and potentially open the airport to other airlines.

According to a press release from the government, on top of being a civilian facility, Mike Zubko Airport acts as a forward operating location for the air force and is primarily used in that capacity for CF-18 operations “to support Canadian sovereignty in the North and NORAD operations.”

A Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet takes off from CFB Bagotville, Quebec, on June 7, 2018. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Currently, when CF-18s are brought to Inuvik, Hood said, they are forced to use arresting cables to rapidly decelerate on the runway.

“The runway has to be shut down,” he said. The extension “just gives more ability for the military to have a better presence here. Even if it’s just [on] a temporary basis.”

The project is expected to be tendered in 2020, according to the Department of National Defence. Design and construction work is expected to last five years, with the project completed in 2026.

With files from Mackenzie Scott

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