Currently most roads in Ahousaht are unpaved, but this is set to change with a multi-phase plan beginning this winter. (Eric Plummer photos)
The new year is set to bring major infrastructure upgrades for Ahousaht, including the beginning of a multi-phase plan to pave all roads in the community.
With $5.5 million in funding from the federal government, road paving is scheduled to begin in early 2018 in the Happy Hill neighbourhood west of Ahousaht’s schools. The area around Maaqtusiis Elementary and Secondary are planned for the next stage of paving, followed by roads near the youth centre and then the area around the First Nation’s administration building to the nearby dock.
Ahousaht Chief Councillor Greg Louie expects total paving to take four years, with the first two phases completed in 2018. Currently the majority of the community is unpaved.
“It’s just the newer subdivision, that’s all,” said Louie. “The old subdivision is not paved at all.”
The paving project includes all roads, curbs and gutters, as well as a drainage plan for gravel roads, according to Ahousaht’s website. To avoid digging and paving roads more than once, timing of the paving will be coordinated with the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. Construction of the $10.5–million wastewater project is also expected to begin in the winter of 2018, around the same time that the road paving would begin.
“When it starts we want some of our people employed, just like any other project,” said Louie of the road work.
During the fall the First Nation met with Associated Engineering and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to discuss how the road paving will be phased in. The federal government has committed to providing $500,000 to get the project started over the first three months of 2018, followed by another half a million in the first quarter of next fiscal year to further progress the paving.
For several years Ahousaht has been asking for federal support to improve the community’s roads, and in the past only funding for a solution to put on the roads was supplied, said Louie.
“It’s been a priority for a long, long time,” he said, adding that improved roads will bring more responsibilities from drivers, such as the requirement to follow regulations and have a driver’s licence.
Currently the community’s emergency vehicles are slowed down by bumps, puddles and potholes on Ahousaht’s roads.
“The ambulance - you know how fast they go in the city - they don’t go that fast here, they don’t go even close to that speed,” said Louie. “Same with the firetruck…they’re big machines and they don’t speed down these roads here. They can’t because of the potholes.”
Dust from the unpaved roads is another concern during Ahousaht’s dry spring and summer months, said the chief councillor.
“You can see really fine dust coming in on the windowsills,” said Louie. “If somebody has asthma or a breathing problem, you’re walking and that wind is blowing, coming directly on you, you’re breathing that in.”