Nunavut regulator gives green light to $116M Nanisivik naval station
NIRB recommends 38 terms and conditions, no environmental assessment
The federal government’s long-delayed $116-million naval station at Nanisivik ought to go ahead without an environmental assessment, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended Oct. 24.
In a screening decision, the review board recommended the project be approved subject to 38 terms and conditions and 24 other requirements covering monitoring and reporting, wildlife protection, waste management and its potential impact on Arctic Bay’s municipal water system.
Article 12 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement gives NIRB the discretion to recommend against an environmental review if they find — following a screening — that such an exercise is not necessary.
At the same time, the NIRB may recommend its own specific terms and conditions. (See document embedded below.)
Bernard Valcourt, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Rob Nicholson, the minister of national defence, must now authorize the review board’s recommendations.
After that happens, the defence department may go ahead with site preparation and construction work in 2014 aimed at getting the naval station up and running in 2016.
If the Department of National Defence sticks to that schedule, the station would be operating by 2017, when Ottawa hopes to receive the first of its planned fleet of Arctic offshore patrol vessels.
This would complete a lengthy process that started in 2006 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an “Arctic deep water port” that in 2007 was confirmed as Nanisivik, site of an existing dock used since the 1970s by the now defunct Nanisivik zinc-lead mine.
“Taken together, the creation of the Canadian Forces Arctic Training Centre [at Resolute Bay], the expansion and modernization of the Canadian Rangers and the development of Port Nanisivik will significantly strengthen Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic,” Harper said Aug. 10, 2007 during a stop in Resolute Bay on his second northern tour.
Since then, the two “sovereignty” projects have seen big downgrades.
A scaled back version of the Canadian Forces training centre at Resolute Bay opened this past August, using pre-existing space within a building constructed for the Polar Continental Shelf Project.
And in February 2012, DND informed the NIRB of major downgrades to their plan for the Nanisivik station, which was reduced to a summer-only refueling station for vessels operated by the Royal Canadian Navy, the Coast Guard and other agencies.
Ottawa dropped plans for use of the jet-capable airstrip at Nanisivik that, in any case, was shut down by the Government of Nunavut, and also dropped plans for permanent staff accommodations and a telecommunications system, at the same time reducing the proposed size of a tank farm.
The naval station will now carry one year’s supply of fuel, for use by future Arctic patrol ships, Coast Guard vessels and other ships.
The site may also be used by private sealift vessels to hold and distribute cargo.
In January of 2013, the review board rejected the defence department’s first submission, a recommendation that Valcourt endorsed in April 2013.
That’s because, the NIRB found that DND provided insufficient information about the project.
DND resubmitted the scheme this past August, leading to the NIRB’s Oct. 24 recommendation.
The Nanisivik naval facility will also include:
• use of the old existing deep water berth at Nanisivik for transportation, vessel refueling and unloading of oversized sealift cargo for Arctic Bay;
• use of the small airport at Arctic Bay for transporting workers and materials during construction;
• use of the existing all-weather road between Arctic Bay and Nanisivik;
• a helicopter landing area;
• two big storage tanks capable of holding up to 7.5 million litres of naval distillate fuel;
• two 81,000-litre storage tanks for diesel;
• 15 drums capable of holding 3,000 litres of aviation fuel;
• use of three existing trailers for personnel;
• a general purpose storage building and wharf operator shelter;
• a cargo storage and marshaling area; and,
• use of a local quarry for gravel.
About 50 to 60 workers will live in pre-built mobile trailers during the construction period — the NIRB recommends DND hire local people “to the extent possible.”
The Hamlet of Arctic Bay will provide water and waste water management services during construction, under an agreement signed this past Aug. 19.
And the NIRB recommends that the Nunavut Water Board keep an eye on Arctic Bay’s water sources to ensure the community can meet its needs while handling the extra demand from the naval station.
During construction, solid waste is to be incinerated and other wastes are supposed to be transported to the south for recycling.
After the naval station’s up and running, solid wastes are to be shipped off site to “an approved disposal facility.”