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January 22, 2004
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Policy centre to study fixed link

Memorial’s Public Policy Research Centre will conduct an independent examination of the economic and technical implications and viability of constructing a fixed link across the Strait of Belle Isle between Labrador and the Island of Newfoundland. Premier Danny Williams announced earlier this week that the federal government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), will partner with the province to fund the study.

“The pre-feasibility study will look at a number of existing data and in particular the engineering information that's been compiled up to this point in time,” said David Vardy, interim director of the centre. “It will review previous studies and it will assemble all of the geo-technical data that are available, both within Hydro, within government and within university circles.

“The difference between a full feasibility study and a pre-feasibility study is that it relates to the level of precision and uncertainty of the estimates.”

Mr. Vardy said the pre-feasibility study will provide the basis for government to take informed decisions as to what the next step should be. That would include a recommendation.

“The role of the policy centre will be to oversee and manage the project with the help of a steering committee, which includes federal and provincial officials,” he said. “The policy centre will be calling for proposals from companies and individuals who wish to undertake the work."

“Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada that does not have a continuous highway or railway linking it to North American markets,” said Premier Williams. “The two major geographic and resource regions within the province – Labrador and the Island of Newfoundland – are virtually inaccessible to each other, leaving exporters and importers constantly challenged by sea and air links. This seriously impedes economic growth potential and opportunities for the province.

The centre will consider various fixed link configurations (e.g., causeway, tunnel, bridge) and possible locations within the Strait of Belle Isle; estimate their technical feasibility; conduct a business case analysis considering capital and operating costs, revenues, projected annual cash flows and utilization levels; produce a sectoral analysis of the economic, social and environmental implications of the project; and review the literature on related fixed link projects around the world.

As well Mr. Vardy said there will be a preliminary analysis of the environmental impacts. “It won't be as rigorous as it would be in a full feasibility study. There won't be the same kind of consultation process as it would be in an environmental, a full environmental impact study,” he said. “But it will be a preliminary review of all of the data and the likely impacts on the environment.”

The principal emphasis of this project is on the transportation of people and goods but it will also take into consideration the various roles a fixed link could perform. This might possibly include a high voltage direct currant (HVDC) cable within the fixed link. Such a cable would allow for an in-feed of power transfer from the lower Churchill Hydro-Electric Project,” said Mr. Vardy. It is estimated that the project will be completed by June/July 2004. The study will cost a total of $351,674, with a contribution of $281,339 from ACOA and $70,335 from the province.


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Next issue: February 5, 2003

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