AUDIO: Ontario’s far north one step closer to building all-season road (CBC News Sudbury – September 17, 2017)

Project becoming more urgent as winter road season becomes shorter every year

Plans to build an all-season road to the James Bay Coast in northern Ontario are moving forward with a feasibility study. It will examine information gathered from community consultations, environmental data and refine cost estimates, which have been pegged between $500 to $700 million.

“We’re no longer going to be isolated,” Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon said. “You’re going to see forestry. You’re going to see resource development. Companies coming into your territory.” Solomon adds that he hopes a permanent road will ease the cost of living.

“For instance, back home I was in my own community of Kashechewan this week and my wife went to the store to pick up a slab of bacon,” Solomon said. “She paid $17 for that … where they’re selling $3 or $4 in Timmins.”

4 routes being considered

There are four routes that are being considered for Ontario’s far north. The highest ranked option from a pre-feasibility study would see a highway follow the Albany River from Hearst, Ont., and Constance Lake First Nation to branch all coastal communities.

The project is being discussed at the same time as Kashechewan First Nation looks to relocate to higher ground to end annual evacuation from spring flooding. Solomon said Kashechewan’s move will have to be sorted out before a permanent road can be built, but he said both proposals remain high on his priority list.

Building an all-season road is urgent, Solomon explained, because the winter road season is getting shorter every year. “It’s devastating,” Solomon said. “This is only the beginning of the effect of a warmer climate.”

Solomon predicts the feasibility study could take up to two years to complete. “I hope I have that opportunity before my term ends to start talking to the governments about construction of an all-season road,” Solomon said.

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