TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project recently contributed $30,000 to the Lakes District Airport Society (LDAS) to help with the resurfacing of the runway at Baker Airport.
“TransCanada’s contribution to LDAS will help ensure the airport remains operational for medevac and emergency services,” said Bill Miller, Chair for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN).
On Feb. 27, 2016, Lakes District residents voted in a referendum to approve raising their taxes to resurface the airport’s runway. However, LDAS is still dealing with a $258,000 shortfall to complete the project.
In order to address the $258,000 shortfall, LDAS has applied for a number of grants. In addition, LDAS distributed a funding drive letter to a number of businesses, organizations and First Nations bands asking for funding to complete the resurfacing project.
Lakes District News has contacted LDAS and the RDBN for several weeks to find out how much funding they have secured to address the $258,000 shortfall. However, they have not responded.
The runway resurfacing project is quoted at $1.55 million. The RDBN had originally planned to borrow $1 million to be repaid over 15 years. However, the province implemented a new policy interpretation which no longer allowed local governments to borrow for more than five years for assets they do not own.
Since the RDBN does not own the airport, they were then limited to a five-year debt. To accommodate this, the RDBN would’ve had to increase the tax limit even more than originally planned.
According to the RDBN, the proposed tax increase that residents approved in February was already significant.
“The elected officials representing the three participating areas did not want to increase [taxation] more than the original referendum plan,” explained Corrine Swenson, Manager of Regional Economic Development for the RDBN, last March. “We planned to make up the shortfall with grants and donations.”
Greg Cano, Director of Project Planning and Execution for Coastal GasLink, said Coastal GasLink believes in supporting the health and safety of regional residents if medical or fire control operations are needed.
“Having an airport runway that is safe and functioning is very important,” he said. “We are proud to be associated with this important initiative and it demonstrates our commitment to the communities which will become our neighbours if the Coastal GasLink project is built.”
According to Reg Blackwell, LDAS president, not resurfacing the runway could result in the closure of the airport. He explained that although the current condition of the runway is safe, large pieces of asphalt have been cracking away from the main runway.
The Burns Lake Airport is owned by the Village of Burns Lake and operated by LDAS under a long-term lease. The LDAS is funded by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako through a sub-regional service that taxes properties in the participating jurisdictions, which are the village and Electoral Areas B and E.