Upgrades for Fond-du-Lac airport underway

·2 min read

Rocks are being crushed as the runway at the airport in Fond-du-Lac, Sask., is set to get some improvements in 2021.

The airport in the community, about 800 kilometres north of Saskatoon, is set to get new turnpads at both ends of the runway, which will also be strengthened and resurfaced, as will the taxiway and apron, the province said in a news release.

The low-intensity lighting that's currently in place will be replaced with high-intensity LED lights, as well.

Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation Chief Louie Mercredi said the improvements will be important to helping move people into and out of the community, which is otherwise only accessible via ice road for a few months of the year.

"This has become much more urgent due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic," Mercredi said in the province's Dec. 10 news release.

"As such, further delays to this project may restrict landing and take-off weights while increasing a number of other costs associated with air transportation."

The provincial announcement broke down spending on the project, which was awarded to Saskatchewan-based Whitford Construction and will come in just shy of $14 million.

The federal government provided $12.1 million over three years, through the Airports Capital Assistance Program. The province will contribute the remaining $1.9 million and is responsible for about $215,000 a year in maintenance and operation costs.

"[The upgrades] are going to really improve the runway," Minister of Highways Joe Hargrave said last week.

"It'll improve the turning paths for the planes going in [and the] resurfacing, fixing up the whole runway, it'll make the runway really good for years to come."

More federal than provincial: NDP

Buckley Belanger, the NDP MLA for the Athabasca riding, noted that the bulk of the construction costs are being covered by Ottawa, and accused the province of riding on the federal government's coattails in last week's announcement.

"The sad reality is that they're putting up window dressing on this particular front," Belanger said of the provincial government's support of the north.

"They've never invested in the north and the northern people know it, and their patience is wearing thin."

Belanger said he and the NDP were happy the province awarded the work to a Saskatchewan-based company, something the party pressed the provincial government on through the fall election campaign and in the last session of the legislature.

He commended efforts by Chief Mercredi to push the provincial government to get work going on the improvement project.

Belanger said the project is ultimately a step in the right direction for the north and thanked the federal government for their contribution to the project.