The province has acknowledged the importance of the Wagita Bay Road – an alternate access route in Atikokan’s emergency plan – and is working to see it repaired.
Councillor Marlene Davidson raised the issue of the road this summer, when Council was discussing the Steep Rock mine site rehabilitation plan, and the loss, by the year 2050, of a significant piece of Highway 622 to flooding as Steep Rock Lake re-forms.
Amanda Holmes, regional director with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (the lead ministry on the rehab project), made the following comments in a letter to Council October 19:
“Although the road is outside the boundaries of the current Steep Rock project, it will be an important asset to the project in the future. I understand there were upgrades in 2013, but the road has since deteriorated, and one water crossing is currently impassable. Staff from the Atikokan field office are aware of the problem and are working with our industry partners to find a solution and repair the road. Substantive upgrades may be considered in future as part of the Steep Rock project as specific needs arise.”
The director was responding to a letter from Council about the rehab project that focussed mostly on the future of the ski hill. Council was disappointed with her earlier response, which noted the age of the ski hill, the fact that it operated on Crown Land under a land use permit, and that the ministry would assume no obligation to relocate it. (That response also indicated the province was willing to work with the Town to find a new ski hill site.)
This time, the director “stress[ed] that its eventual flooding is unavoidable”. (Estimates say 2042; Councillor Ferguson, who sits on the rehab committee, said studies suggest water will rise halfway up the ski hill as the lake re-forms.)
She again noted the province would assume no legal liability for its flooding, not does it have any record of a commitment to do so. Nevertheless, she wrote, “it is our hope that through ongoing dialogue we can find workable solutions that meet the needs of both the project and the people of Atikokan. We have time to find that solution and hope that you will work with us as the project progresses.”
As to the future of Highway 622, the Ministry of Transportation is aware of the situation and is engaged with the rehab project team. The project team will reach out to Union Gas as well; its lines will be impacted by the flooding.