Haines Junction will be receiving up to $6 million from the federal and territorial governments for what officials say are much-needed upgrades to the community’s underground piping and drainage systems.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, on behalf of federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities François-Philippe Champagne, and Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker made the announcement in Haines Junction the afternoon of Jan. 8.
Canada will be covering the lion’s share of the project’s estimated $6 million cost, pitching in up to $4.5 million from its Small Communities Fund to replace old concrete and asbestos-insulated water and sewage pipes, prone to cracking due to local seismic activity, with pipes made of more durable PVC.
The Yukon will be contributing an additional $1.5 million for the work, which will also see drainage along several streets improved.
The project is the second phase of a larger infrastructure overhaul in Haines Junction which began in 2017.
Whitehorse-based company Wildstone Construction and Engineering Ltd. will be overseeing the pipe replacement, and, following the Jan. 8 announcement, had a booth in Haines Junction where it was answering questions and accepting resumes from local residents
Work is expected to begin in the spring, with affected roads including Macintosh Street, Auriol Street, Kluane Street, Logan Street, Martin Street, Steele Street, Lucania Street, Bates Street, Lowell Street and Kathleen Road.
In an interview, Streicker said that his department has been in conversation with Haines Junction “over the last couple of years,” during which the village urged the territory to “move faster” on upgrading its water infrastructure as it was experiencing “a lot of issues” with it.
“Water for a community is really an essential service and we need to make sure that that infrastructure is up to grade, and when it’s not, what happens is … you do end up (with pipes bursting),” Streicker said. “… If you get a break in winter, you’ve got to dig it up, you’ve got to go get it, right? And that’s really expensive. So this will, hopefully, make the village not only more sustainable with their infrastructure, but also, ensure that they’re going to have clean drinking water and a healthy community.”
In a separate interview, Bagnell said that while water and sewer systems are municipal responsibilities, it was “critical” for the territorial and federal governments to get involved in this case due to the significant price tag on the project.
“It’s a lot of money for a rural community … It’s important that rural communities (are) not forgotten in the grand scheme of things in the Yukon,” he said.
The improvements will benefit both residents and visitors alike, he added.
“Haines Junction has so much potential, as you can imagine,” he said, noting the community’s proximity to Kluane National Park.
“You really need water and sewer infrastructure before you can move ahead (on tourism development), so it’s pretty critical for both people that live there and … for allowing Canadians and tourists around the world to get into such a beautiful part of the Yukon.”
Haines Junction mayor Thomas Eckervogt did not respond to a request for comment, but, in a press release, said the village was grateful for the funding.
“This long term investment in the health of our community is vital to the sustainability of our community,” he said.
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