Federal funding kicks in for Watson Lake roads

The federal and Yukon governments are keeping a promise in Watson Lake. For years, members of the Liard First Nation have been waiting for roads to…

The federal and Yukon governments are keeping a promise in Watson Lake.

For years, members of the Liard First Nation have been waiting for roads to be paved in the Two Mile community of Watson Lake.

Last week, the First Nation finally received approval for money to pave the roads under the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund.

“Paving Two Mile roads will also take care of the air quality, health and safety issues created by these dusty roads,” said chief Liard McMillan in a release.

“(The project) is a good example of the government’s willingness to do what they previously said they would do.

“Another promise made, and another promise kept.”

The Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund is a federal initiative that sees Ottawa match funding from provincial, territorial and municipal governments to build infrastructure in communities across Canada.

There’s about $6.1 million earmarked in the Community Services budget for capital projects that qualify for the funding. Half those funds will be recovered from Ottawa.

The total cost of the Two Mile roads project is estimated at $417,600. Together, Ottawa and the Yukon have agreed to contribute up to $278,400.

The Liard First Nation and the Watson Lake town office will each receive $139,200 for the upgrade.

The money will go to chip-sealing some of the more major roads, said Watson Lake mayor Richard Durocher.

“(The money) will take care of the main artery through Two Mile and Two-and-a-half-Mile and some of the side roads,” Durocher said Wednesday.

“It’ll be a little short of what we need, but that’s OK too.

“We can work through that, whether we apply through MRIF or (the Community Development Fund) or whether we decide as two governments to contribute on our own, that’s a decision we’ll have to make in the future.

“We’ve worked together before, but we’ve never really made a concrete decision to apply for funding or to do a major piece of capital infrastructure in the past.

“This is just the start. We recognize where we want to go as a community, and with cooperation between the two levels of government we’re going to start looking at other things that the community does need.”

There are several conditions that must be met before the project can move forward, including a geotechnical survey and an environmental screening, added Durocher.

The municipality and the First Nation will begin paving Two Mile roads this summer, he said.

The project will be publicly tendered according to Yukon government contracting regulations.