Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Thursday could be a big day for the Tsimshian Access project

Mayor Jack Mussallem will be waiting patiently for word this Thursday that the Federal government is going to help move the Tsimshian Access project forward.

On that day, the city may be in receipt of 15 million dollars, a federal contribution towards further study about the feasibility of the much discussed link between Prince Rupert and its First Nation neighbours in Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams.

The bridge and ferry combination is the latest incarnation of the long held plan to provide better access to Digby Islands airport and beyond, with a number of changes to the original plan to come down the road over the years.

Thursday may mark yet another twist in that road, but one which actually may bring the project closer to fruition than at any time in recent history.

The Daily News had details on the funding quest in Monday's paper.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, July 6, 2009
Pages one and three

Mayor Jack Mussallem is hoping by Thursday that he will be able to accept a grant of $15 million.

That's money that he didn't expect and it might be money he can't count on.

That's because the funding, which is earmarked for the Tsimshian Access Project, is to come from the federal government's community adjustment fund, a program that is looking to inject $1 billion into communities with economic needs created by the global recession. It was a fund that up until two weeks ago, the Mayor thought Prince Rupert was unable to access.

But that has changed and Mussallem is hoping that with the eligibility shift the federal governments will provide Prince Rupert with more than enough money to get the project started.

"It's a good portion of the money needed," said Mussallem.

The advantages, explained Mussallem, were not only for Prince Rupert. It would also help the outlying Coast Tsimshian villages that have struggled economically in part because of their isolation from services and infrastructure.

By having a road access to Digby Island via a bridge, and then accessing Kaien Island via improved ferry service and an adjusted dock between Crippin Cove and Dodge Cove, it is hoped that the TAP would deliver more than a few other benefits.

Mussallem foresees that improved ferry access would open up residents to Digby Island beaches on the south side of the island.

It could also improve chances for distribution services attached to the airport, which would entail temporary construction jobs and then permanent warehousing jobs.

It's a vision that the mayor anticipates coming true through the building of the road.

"We'd like to work on that project as soon as possible. There are some serious health and service concerns for the outlying villages and [the TAP] would help facilitate the growth of these communities," said Mussallem.

One consideration that might need to be included in any TAP plans would be the Lax Kw'alaams band council's plan to move forward on Arrow Point, which is currently under an environmental review.

Lax Kw'alaams band council plan to build an improved ferry terminal there for their residents in an attempt to improve their access to Prince Rupert.

Mussallem didn't think that was a huge problem because both Coast Tsimshian communities, Lax Kw' alaams and Metlakatla, are committed publicly and financially to the project. Both communities have offered up $50,000 each for the current plan, while Prince Rupert and the provincial government have each pony upped $100,000.

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