NEWS: Iqaluit April 13, 2017 - 7:00 am

Iqaluit’s new airport needs improved approach lights: GN

$14 million project would see breakwater jut into Koojesse Inlet

JANE GEORGE

To make aircraft landings safer at Iqaluit’s new airport, set to open this summer, the Government of Nunavut wants to revamp the approach lighting system that guides pilots into the runway.

It’s all about safety, said John Hawkins, the GN’s Iqaluit airport director.

“The replacing of the lighting structure will allow pilots the time to determine if landing conditions are safe,” Hawkins said at an April 11 public consultation in Iqaluit.

The new lighting would include the same number of lights, but would feature a total of five, instead of three strobes.

Now all on land, the new lights would be set on a breakwater jutting out into the bay, designed to add another quarter-mile to the landing approach to the runway for aircraft.

The lighting system project proposal, outlined in a 130-page document prepared by the GN and WSP Canada Ltd., is now undergoing a screening by the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

As described, the $14 million project will take two years to build and see 20 jobs created.

It will also mean the construction of a rock breakwater so that the lights will be spread over 720 metres (about 2,300 feet) instead of the present 273.5 m (about 900 feet).

And the breakwater’s construction will require 20-tonne trucks to make 90 trips a day from the quarry on Federal Road, from July to November during the first year of construction and from July to August in the second year of construction.

Overall, the Iqaluit International Airport upgrades include a new airport terminal, expanded aprons for aircraft to park, new lighting systems, an upgraded runway and a new combined services building that will house fire-fighting vehicles, support equipment and heavy equipment.

The GN has said the construction phase of this project stands at $298.5 million.

A consortium of companies called Arctic Infrastructure Partners will build and run the new airport complex for the next 30 years under a private-public-partnership, or “P3.”

But, because the airport is a private-public project that will be turned over to this consortium to run, Hawkins said it makes more sense to upgrade the existing non-standard runway approach lighting system at the same time.

Airports in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet are already up to standard, he said.

But the existing approach lighting system in Iqaluit is nearly 30 years old and has reached the end of its expected lifespan.

And it’s difficult to maintain for much of the year due to access restrictions, he said. The new system on the breakwater would be easy to service thanks to a road built on the top of the breakwater.

There’s really no option but to go into the bay to get the new lights, Hawkins said: To comply with current standards, the approach lighting system must be extended by 450 m to the south-east into Koojesse Inlet.

The lights will basically be the same but the 12 light bars, three on land and nine on the breakwater, will be spread out by an additional 450 metres, and the two simultaneously flashing strobes will be replaced with five sequenced strobes at the outer end.

Although not even a handful of Iqaluit residents turned up at the project consultation, they did have questions about the project: about the impact of the breakwater and lighting on boating and sealift operations, of the construction on shoreline vegetation and about the future impact of the breakwater on access to the sea ice by snowmobiles which often travel there because the ice is smoother.

One woman said she was worried that the lighting would be visible to many who live with a view over the water.

In comments to the NIRB, Transport Canada also suggested the lights could interfere with marine navigators.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans wanted to have more information about whether the project would cause harm to fish or bowhead whales.

The NIRB has given the GN until April 21 to respond to some of concerns raised by those comments.

The NIRB said, among other things, that it wants to know more about the potential impacts of the breakwater on marine mammals and fish.

And the NIRB also asked for a description of measures proposed to mitigate “potential luminous interference” with navigation from the project and during its construction phase.

The NIRB then plans to issue its screening decision to the relevant government ministers, a report which could include a recommendation that the project undergo an environmental review.