Province seeks federal dollars to improve Fond-du-Lac airstrip

It will likely be an \”expensive\” project to expand Fond-du-Lac\’s airport, but the first step of an engineering study and design is underway, to enable larger aircraft to land in the northern Saskatchewan community, according to the Minister of Highways and Infrastructure.

David Marit said the province is conducting a similar expansion in a southern community for $3 million, but he expected widening and lengthening the airstrip in the northern community would cost more, due to transportation requirements.

\”I would hope the federal government would recognize the importance of this airport to the community of Fond-du-Lac,\” said Marit, of the province\’s requests for federal support.

The engineering report should be complete by December, he said.

Lives at risk, says MLA

Buckley Belanger, NDP MLA for Athabasca, applauded the move, but called for community consultation during any future expansion of the airstrip.

\”As the chief indicated, it\’s his people that are put at risk each and every day they board aircraft,\” he said.

Fond-du-Lac\’s airport received widespread attention following a plane crash on Dec. 13, 2017, with the crash taking place shortly after the plane took off.

However, Marit said that the upgrades to the airport were discussed even before last year\’s crash, as a way to enable more supplies to be brought in to Fond-du-Lac.

The province said that upgrades to Fond-du-Lac\’s airport were being discussed prior to a Dec. 13, 2017 plane crash that claimed the life of one. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

Belanger noted that several communities in the north have airports that are not properly equipped to handle the size of aircraft now landing at the sites.

\”It\’s an amazing amount of courage that many people in Athabasca basin show every day, because airplane transportation is a fact of life for them,\” he said.

Belanger notes that compounding the problem is the state of highways leading to and from northern communities.

\”We can\’t have bad roads and bad airports,\” he said.

\”We\’re in a place where we have two bad choices. We need the government to provide leadership, to at least solve one problem for now and we\’ll work on the other over the long term.\”

Marit acknowledged the state of the highways, and the need for airport upgrades.

He said he would be flying into northern airports himself this June to examine them, as these airports must meet federal regulations.