Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

A Bridge Too Far: Deh Cho bridge could impede shipments of prefabricated modules from China to the Tarpits

Deh Cho bridge could impede barge route


Alberta proponents of the northern barge route said they were disappointed their project might be forced out by the Deh Cho bridge, but said they respected the NWT’s decision in any event.

Mammoet Canada, heavy lifting specialists and a proponent of the barge route, said it would be disappointing if the barge route is cancelled, especially since the economic spinoff from the route would benefit the NWT as a whole.

“We were under the impression that the bridge was second to the [barge] project,” Bronder said. “We are considering making an application, but we are in Alberta. Who are we stop the NWT from building a bridge?”

Recently, the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation (DCBC) was told by Transport Canada their bridge proposal would have to undergo another round of public consultation because of recent interest in reviving the Mackenzie River shipping route.

Transport Canada’s navigable waters department is delaying issuing a key permit for the bridge because of concerns the bridge might impede a potential shipping route. The proposed bridge, which spans the Mackenzie River at Fort Providence, offers a clearance of 23 metres (a building of about six storeys) based on its current technical specifications. However, the clearance needs to be increased if oil sands companies in Fort McMurray are to get their prefabricated modules through.

DCBC received the permit in the past, but that was before the Mackenzie River became a viable route for the transportation of heavy equipment to Fort McMurray, said Transport Canada spokesperson Susan McLennan. Last December, Synenco Energy, an Athabasca-based oil sands company, said they would consider using the water route to cut down on capital costs.

Based on their estimates, said Synenco spokesperson Scott Ranson, the company would save in excess of $1 billion to ship rather than build the modules. However, he said, that doesn’t mean Synenco would be making a submission to Transport Canada this time around.

“We are aware of how meaningful the bridge would be to the people in the NWT,” Ranson said. “We are assessing the bridge situation and we should have a decision before the end of the comment period.”

Alberta’s oil sands industry is poised to triple in size by 2015. Should the barge route be approved, much of the construction will be done with prefabricated modules shipped in from Asia.

But it is not only the oil sands companies who have an interest in seeing the barge route go ahead. Since the route extends all the way from the Mackenzie Delta to Fort McMurray, a number of NWT communities along the way stand to benefit from the project, especially those that are directly involved in the shipping process such as Fort Smith.

Recently, an almost unanimous Fort Smith leadership endorsed the barge route as a potential economic boon for the community. The portage from Bell Rock to Fitzgerald alone may mean more jobs for the community, as would the re-opening of an alternate route to western Canada from the manufacturers in Asia.

DCBC said it would be too expensive to change the design of the bridge to raise the clearance or install a type of drawbridge mechanism. The GNWT’s department of transportation said it will be making a submission to Transport Canada to come up with some compromise so that both projects can go ahead as scheduled.


The bridge...

Wow, what a bizarre anomaly... development to protect the environment from development...

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