Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 14, 2011 - 6:58 am

CamBay looks to future research station for economic boost

"But how can we organize our community, our businesses?"

JANE GEORGE
The future Canadian High Arctic Research Station could be located here at the outskirts of Cambridge Bay, on an undeveloped piece of land with a view towards the Cam-Main radar site. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
The future Canadian High Arctic Research Station could be located here at the outskirts of Cambridge Bay, on an undeveloped piece of land with a view towards the Cam-Main radar site. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

When the Canadian High Arctic Research Station opens in Cambridge Bay six years from now, people in this Nunavut community of 1,500 want to be prepared.

For that, hamlet officials say they want help.

CHARS will spark a flurry of construction activity, year-round, in Cambridge Bay, starting at least two years before the research station’s projected opening in 2017.

New business opportunities will also start to flow from CHARS during construction of its facility and the housing needed for its 55 new employees, says Cambridge Bay’s current deputy mayor Wilf Wilcox.

“But how can we organize our community, our businesses to take better advantage of them?”

And it’s one question that Cambridge Bay has been largely left to grapple with on its own.

A nine-member steering committee, whose members include Wilcox, meets monthly to brainstorm how they can prepare for the $81-million CHARS project.

But what they need is some expert advice, say Wilcox, who also runs a plumbing and electrical contracting business in Cambridge Bay, Jago Enterprises.

“I don’t think we expected to have someone come in and do everything for us,” Wilcox said in a recent interview. “But we need to get some help.”

The hamlet’s economic development officer Jim MacEachern also worries that if Cambridge Bay doesn’t prepare adequately for CHARS “we won’t have the capability to take advantage of the opportunities.”

Wilcox and MacEachern would like to see a full-time person in the community, who would work on ensuring that Cambridge Bay benefits from CHARS.

But no government agency has stepped up to the plate yet to pay for this expertise.

And Cambridge Bay lacks a chamber of commerce that could leverage money for a special project, Wilcox points out.

Cambridge Bay, whose population is expected to boom soon as the construction of the CHARS-related facilities starts, also needs about $100 million to cover new infrastructure, hamlet officials say.

These needs include road-paving, more fire-fighting equipment, a new municipal garage and an expanded airport.

As well, a new dock to accommodate the growing number of vessels, small and large, which sail through the Northwest Passage every summer, is on the hamlet’s wish-list.

A new tank farm, now located in the middle of town, is also something the hamlet wants to see — and earlier this fall, the Government of Nunavut put out a request for proposals for a tank farm located closer to the airport.

However, a state-of-the-art utilidor system lies at the heart of Cambridge Bay’s dream for its future as a centre for cutting-edge research and development in the Canadian Arctic.

It’s the base of an “integrated infrastructure” proposal that the hamlet submitted as a project to the federal government for funding,

The utilidor would replace the hamlet’s present trucked system of water delivery and waste pick-up. Its new piped system would also carry power from alternative energy sources to homes and public buildings.

The utilidor plan includes a facility for gasification, a process that uses high temperatures to convert organic materials and biodegradable waste into what’s called “syngas.”

Gasification was used to produce gas for lighting and cooking in 1800s, but was later replaced by electricity and natural gas until it re-emerged during the world wars when there was a shortage of petroleum projects.

Gasification, now used mainly in industry, can reduce wastage and provide a local energy source at the same time, and it could free Cambridge Bay from using diesel fuel to run its electrical generators.

The science committee looking at CHARS has already listed the development of a power system that can keep Arctic communities warm without polluting the environment as one of the high tech projects CHARS can tackle.

But for now, CHARS remains at the design stage.

The final selection of the design consultant and the awarding of a contract should be in place for the summer of 2012.

According to the project schedule, the architectural firm that wins the competition will deliver a final design for the facility, estimated between 6,500 square metres and 8,500 sq. m., in the summer of 2014.

The top contenders for design will visit Cambridge Bay this winter — but because the town will be in the middle of the dark season when they come, the hamlet has prepared a video of the community the way it looks in the summer, without its cloak of snow and darkness.

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