The airport in Nain needs to be replaced — it has no lights on the runway, and the airstrip is slowing sinking into the ocean.
The airport was the subject of a pre-feasibility study two years ago that said it needed to be moved. The study identified a new site, about seven kilometres outside of the small coastal Labrador town.
The next step is a feasibility study, which would have to be completed before things like funding and construction could be discussed. According to the MHA for the region, Lela Evans, and Nain AngajukKak (Mayor) Julius Dicker, that process appears to be stalled.
“It’s been in the hands of the government for two years and now we’re just waiting,” Dicker said. “It got that far and now it’s stuck. Both governments know we need a new airport, but no one seems to want to take responsibility for getting it done. Election time they always say it’s a priority, but when that’s done it gets tossed back and forth.”
He said if it doesn’t proceed soon it could be a serious problem for the community. The airport is reaching its end of life, he said, and he’s not sure it will last long enough for another one to get approved and built, no matter what patchwork is done.
The shipping season is short in Labrador, and for Nain, which has no roads connecting it to other towns, the airstrip is an essential part of life in the winter. Freight and medical flights are running frequently, Dicker said, and he doesn’t know what would happen if the community doesn’t have access to an airstrip.
“How long is it going to take when they have the feasibility study done to when the first spade will be in the ground?” he said. “Nain is growing and that’s our only lifeline right now. Someone needs to wake up and take this seriously. What’s it going to take?”
Dicker said they’ve been trying to get lights on the runway for 30 years and he’s been pushing it since he was elected in 2014.
Evans, a PC MHA, brought up the issue in the House of Assembly recently, questioning the government on why the study hasn’t been done.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Derrick Bragg told Evans in the House that he looks forward to speaking with the federal government on the matter and that if a medical flight was needed after dark, search and rescue could assist.
Evans said that can take hours to organize, which could be a matter of life and death, and isn’t an acceptable solution.
“This can’t keep getting put off,” she said. “You have to wonder how many people didn’t get the proper medical attention in a timely fashion because of the lack of lights, of medivac access. We’re not even talking about construction, we’re just talking about a study. The longer this is stalled, the longer this is going to go on.”
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram