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East Clearwater Highway project officially cancelled

A 2016 graphic of a map for the proposed East Clearwater Highway. File/MYMCMURRAY/Sarah Anderson.

The East Clearwater Highway (ECH), first proposed in 2016, is now one for the history books.

On July 11, 2023, RMWB Council approved a motion cancelling the project, which would have linked Fort McKay and Anzac via secondary egress road running parallel with Highway 63.

In a report, Administration said initial funding for ECH came from a resolution by Council in 2016.

“$5,000,000 was allocated in the 2017 budget for the Municipality’s contribution to the overall predesign costs of a proposed East Clearwater Highway, which was meant to provide an alternate egress route from Fort McMurray. This contribution was subject to a commitment from other partners for the remainder of the predesign costs.”

As a result of the motion, the amendment will result in a net decrease of $5-million to this year’s Capital Budget.

A lot changed since that resolution, such as two provincial elections, a municipal election, a pandemic, and the 2020 spring floods.

“Since that time, the Government of Alberta has refocused its priority for an alternate egress route from the proposed East Clearwater Highway to the Highway 686 connector between Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie. As such, the East Clearwater Highway project will not be moving forward.”

Northside Twin Arena

Another project from 2015 has received new life by RMWB Council in 2023.

Council members voted by an 8-1 margin in favour of a motion resurrecting the Northside Twin Arena proposal on Abraham’s Land.

The original proposal was deferred in 2018.

READ MORE: Council to revisit 2016 Northside Twin Arena proposal

According to the Municipality, the project would cost $46.7-million in 2024, despite initial approval from 2015 Council at $34.5-million.

There would also be an annual operating and ownership cost of more than $2.8-million.

“$1,600,000 is operating and $1,540,000 is life cycle, $109,500 increased operating subsidies to other arena operators to maintain cost recovery ratios.”

To date, there are four ice surfaces available in the urban service area, resulting in limited ice time.

A report in February 2023 spoke of competition among user groups.

“Many organizations are currently restricted on how many participants can register due to ice shortage and as a result, some potential users are being turned away.”

The twin arena features two standard sized rinks with a total seating capacity for 600 guests.

Councillor Ken Ball introduced the motion calling for $50-million dollars from the Capital Infrastructure Reserve.

In the breakdown of cash flow, $1.5-million will spent in 2023, $20-million in 2024, and $28.5-million in 2025.

The funding includes consultation, construction management and costs.