Iqaluit airport plots new breakwater to build bigger, better lighting system

Iqaluit airport plots new breakwater to build bigger, better lighting system

A new plan to replace the 30-year-old lighting system at the Iqaluit International Airport is drawing some concern about how exactly it will be built and what the impact will be.

A proposal submitted to the Nunavut Impact Review Board in January notes that the airport's current approach lighting system is out of date and doesn't comply with existing standards.

"Its length was shortened due to its proximity to Koojesse Inlet and extends only 273.5 metres instead of the prescribed 720 metres. Therefore, to comply with the current standards, the approach lighting system must be extended by 450 metres to the southeast into Koojesse Inlet.

The director of the Iqaluit Airport says as a result, the runway is penalized by Transport Canada – the distance a safe landing can be determined is extended further away from the runway by about an extra 400 metres.

That means aircraft have to make their decision about whether it's safe to land earlier, John Hawkins explained.

"The aircraft can't approach in weather that they would be able to approach if there weren't a penalty in place."

He says updating the lights would remove the penalty, allowing the airport to take full advantage of the runway's instrument landing system.

The plan would be to build a breakwater and extend the lighting structure into Koojesse Inlet.

That's expected to take two years, with work happening from July to November, employing about 20 people.

"The breakwater will present a small modification to local landscape and a new component to be considered by local residents when boating in the area," the proposal notes.

Public meeting to come

Several agencies raised concerns about the proposal in comments to the board. That prompted the board to ask for more information on just how the breakwater would be built, what impacts it would have on fish and whales, and how it would affect navigation.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada wanted to know what community consultation had occurred or was planned. 

In response, airport director John Hawkins said he expects to be able to provide answers to the mostly "straightforward" comments.

"However, the fullest way to address the comment on public consultation is to provide a response which not only contains the materials we include in the consultation, but also summarizes what we hear from the consultation.

"This has not yet been undertaken, and we will need some time to organize a public meeting and to ensure that the proper stakeholders are able to attend."

Hawkins has been given until April 21 to respond.