Lekstrom given lengthy shopping list

A bridge, two roads, a ferry and a wharf — these transportation issues faced by Kitimat were on the table here last Wednesday in a meeting between B.C.’s transportation minister, the mayor and a few city councillors

A bridge, two roads, a ferry and a wharf — these transportation issues faced by Kitimat were on the table here last Wednesday in a meeting between B.C.’s transportation minister, the mayor and a few city councillors.

“The meeting was about hearing challenges and obstacles about economic development in Kitimat,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan had four main points: that B.C. take responsibility for maintaining Haisla Boulevard and its bridge, to find wharf space for local industry, building a new corridor and a proposed intercoastal ferry project.

Monaghan explained care for Haisla Boulevard, an extension of HWY37, was passed to the city from the province in the 1980s. It costs $473, 000 annually to maintain and needed bridge maintenance is in the millions.

“We are the only city in B.C. that has this kind of road running through it that has no help from the province,” she said. “We want them to take it back.”

Next, the city and Rio Tinto Alcan both want the old Eurocan wharf, said Monaghan, who explained if Alcan gets it and is selective about who has access it could hurt other industries unless a new wharf is identified.

“We have five industries waiting to use it and it would be up to 500 jobs or more,” she said. “We want just to show [B.C.] how important it is that we have our own wharf for industries to use.”

They also talked plans for a private ferry which would run between Bella Bella, Klemtu, Hartley Bay and Kitimat.

“These areas have up to an 80 per cent unemployment rate,” said Monaghan, explaining the ferry would not only improve tourism in the areas, but serve as transportation to and from jobs in the Kitimat region. It would also allow easier shipping for crustation farms.

After the meeting, councillor Rob Goffinet who attended said he was excited about the prospect of a ferry because it would improve access to health care from more remote areas.

Another idea discussed was a new road around the west side road area. The mayor calls it a corridor, and hopes to see a collaborative effort between interests in the area in making the road.

“Perhaps we could get all the industries to come up with a plan for a corridor and a pipeline and a transmission line for power and put it all underground in the same fell swoop,” Monaghan said.

“We want the province to coordinate an effort between industries going down there and the province in order to make that road a reality.”

After the meeting, Lekstrom said he will be back to Kitimat as soon as possible.

He committed to looking into the issues that were presented and doing his best to find solutions and answers.