Alaska Highway nomination project revised

A revised budget was presented to the regional district board this morning by the project proponents, the Alaska Highway Community Society, which is made up of stakeholders from communities along the highway corridor in northeast British Columbia, including a few sitting directors and alternate directors with the regional district. The revised request made to the regional district is for just over $538,000 over three years, compared to the original request of nearly $610,000 over four years.

April Moi with Northern BC Tourism, who is acting as an administrator for the highway nomination project, said cost savings have been realized by reducing the budget for travel and by hiring a consulting firm to conduct research instead of contracting independent researchers.

“We have pared down some areas in order to try to move this forward,” she said.

Moi said the society has managed to secure $100,000 of in-kind assistance over three years from the provincial Ministry of Transportation. She said that support includes research and assessments related to property tenures and archeological values associated with the highway.

“Once project got underway, there would be opportunities to identify other ways to work together,” she added.

She said the Alaska Highway Community has also reached an agreement with the North East Native Advancing Society (NENAS) to establish a research-based story-collecting project, where each community along the highway corridor would identify a member of that community to gather stories related to the construction of the highway and the impacts of the construction of the highway.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality also passed a resolution to provide $10,000 to support research involved with the nomination project, she said. That is much less than the $610,000 that was originally anticipated from Fort Nelson, but Moi said while the regional municipality supports the project, they are forced to deal with other budget priorities at this time.

She said they hope to start the nomination project in September with six months of surveying known information, working with communities and stakeholders and identifying the boundaries of specific sites.

“We believe if we start in September there is still enough time to travel the highway and do a physical site check.”

The second phase of the project, slated to begin in April, 2012, would involve a mapping component, and engagement of stakeholders in the Yukon, as well as other objectives. The third phase, beginning in April, 2013, and would involve completing the research required for the submission report to Parks Canada and conducting any follow-up research required by the federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board.

It is anticipated the federal review process would take another two years to complete, so if successful, the Alaska Highway would become a national historic site in 2017, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the completion of the highway, and the 150th anniversary of Canada. That timeline makes the project extremely time sensitive, said Moi.

The board of the Peace River Regional District is expected to be presented with a report on whether or not to approve the revised budget for the nomination project at its next regular meeting on Aug. 25.