The City of Terrace is supporting the Nisga’a Lisims Government’s (NLG) bid to push the province to upgrade the Cranberry Connector/Nass Forest Service Road to a numbered highway.
Last month the NLG, after considering several proposals presented by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), selected an option that would improve the now gravelled road to a paved, numbered highway connecting the Nass Valley eastward to Hwy37N north of Kitwanga. This would include the replacement of all bridges as well as major drainage and realignments to achieve year-round use and an 80 km/hr travel speed.
The upgrade is essential to promote economic opportunities for several Nisga’a communities in the Nass Valley, said NLG in a March 25 letter to the transportation ministry.
It would also boost tourism by increasing visitors to the Lava Bed Memorial Park in the Nass Valley and provide an option for those heading north and south along Hwy 37 North or those travelling south on Hwy113 to Terrace.
The push for the road also comes at a time when the Nisga’a are looking at the development of liquefied natural gas pipelines and facilities in the Nass area.
“A highway standard Cranberry Connector would provide a critical link for construction vehicles to access the associated project sites, thereby facilitating further economic development and opportunities,” NLG said.
It reminded the province of a long-term commitment via the Nisga’a land claims treaty, signed 22-years-ago, wherein it specifically stipulates that British Columbia will consider the extension of the Nisga’a Highway (113) from Nass Camp to Highway 37N, “in accordance with provincial priorities” and having regard to British Columbia’s acknowledged “long term goal of completing that extension.”
In support of NLG, Terrace council also identified the significance of the Cranberry Connector which in the past served as a significant rerouting option for traffic to Terrace after floods in 2007 cut off access to Highway 16.
The city will be adding its own recommendation in support of the road, it said.
“It’s important that we support our neighbours on this initiative,” Mayor Carol Leclerc said in the April 11 council meeting, adding, “If this is good for the Nass it is good for Terrace, too.”
Leclerc also said that the development of the Cranberry Connector would augment Terrace’s food security in the event of future Hwy 16 closures.
The city has been lobbying the province for more than 20 years for an improved Cranberry Connector and the issue has been consistently raised by the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine too.
Leaving the road undeveloped could also pose a huge liability for the province, Coun. James Cordeiro said.
The councillor also pointed out that Drive BC still directs people to use the Cranberry Connector if they are heading from Prince George to the Nass Valley.
“I’m not sure where the malfunction is,” Cordeiro said, adding that despite the province being resistant to making meaningful upgrades to the road, it continues to recommend that route to tourists and people who are not from the area and don’t know any better.
“I could could see that as a potential liability for the province should somebody find themselves stuck there in the middle of winter,” he said.