Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quest for pavement could result in homecomings

The long desired Tsimshian Access Project is more than just a little pavement and gravel base, for Metlakatla it may be the answer to bringing home former residents, a move that could help the village to grow and solidify it's infrastructure needs.

It's one of the spin off effects that no doubt will be highlighted to different levels of government as Metlakatla and Port Simpson seek to move the project from the proposal stage to the construction phase.

The Daily News featured the view on the project from Metlakatla as the front page headline story in Tuesday's paper.

Metlakatla's elected chief hopes proposed project will get off the drawing board
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Pages one and two

Metlakatla elected chief Harold Leighton said he was happy that the province has agreed to update studies on the Tsimshian Access Project (TAP).

And he hoped that if the possible TAP goes ahead, members of the Metlakatla community would return home to live in the village.

"Our community has always been committed to the Tsimshian Access Project," said Leighton.

"Probably there would be an increase of our members moving back which would support the overall operation of the community in terms of governmental services and infrastructure construction."

Leighton was reacting to last week's announcement that the Tsimshian Access Project would go ahead with an updated feasibility study.

He estimated that, right now, there are 800 members of the Metlakatla community, with about 100-to-150 people living on the peninsular village just north of Prince Rupert.

According to Leighton, a better connection would immediately double the population in the village, because there would then be easier access to Prince Rupert services, meaning some would leave Prince Rupert in favour of living in Metlakatla but would be able to continue to work here.

And that would be OK, because the community has recently upgraded the sewer system and would be ready to take on the additions.

It is expected that with a greater road connectivity, the area would see a bigger boost in long-term services and Leighton seemed to believe that the better connection would make the region a stronger player on the provincial economic scene.

The much-discussed project would link the communities of Prince Rupert, Port Simpson and Metlakatla together to form a much more accessible North Coast region, allowing people in the outlying villages the opportunity to work in Prince Rupert but live at home.

A significant change to the project is the termination of the idea of a suspension bridge from Prince Rupert to Digby Island.

In the past, the provincial government has had reservations about the feasibility of such a construction plan, wondering how it would work.

The bridge now appears to be off the table with the focus now on a better ferry service from both Kaien Island and Digby Island by bringing the Digby dock closer to Rupert.

However, there would need to be a bridge from Metlakatla to Digby, giving those living in the village much quicker access to the airport.

Leighton thinks that if the plan finally gets that approval, his community's economy would improve drastically.

"It would benefit Metlakatla in terms of cost for health and education and all the related services looking at reduced costs.

"We may see a lot of opportunity on the economic side," added Leighton.

Among the opportunities, Leighton said that the access project would bring job opportunities through road construction and job training.

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