With billions in work planned in construction, mining and environmental remediation projects, the region is already crying out for housing, skilled workers and cross-jurisdictional planning.
Some of the projects on tap include: the $6.2 billion Lower Churchill development, $540 million concentrator expansion project by IOC and over $300 million of remediation at 5 Wing Goose Bay.
The needs of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City highlight the needs of the region, developing as a result of the natural resource-related projects. With a working budget of about $9 million, Happy Valley-Goose Bay is hoping it can keep up to what’s coming, according to Mayor Leo Abbass. “We have to increase our staff to meet the demands being placed on our existing staff,” he said in a presentation at the event.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay has recently updated its municipal development regulations with a plan through 2018, with “major amendments” this past summer, since sent to province for approval.
As for housing, 147 new residential lots are under development. Still, “we have a housing crisis in town right now,” Abbass said, adding developments are in the works even as the council works to secure more land for development from the Department of National Defence.
Work is already so rapid, “we need more construction workers to keep up with the demand,” he said.
Three areas in the municipality are poised for major residential and commercial development. Among the three is a 250-acre space in centre of the community that will include some residential, but also needed space for retailers looking to get a foot in the community.
Abbass let slip that work has begun on a new wastewater treatment plant. The community had been lobbying provincial and federal government members for that item since 1998.
Meanwhile, Labrador City mayor Janice Barnes told the NEIA gathering her community is also feeling the pressure. The town has a $15-million operating budget, 40 per cent from IOC through grant in lieu of taxes, negotiated this year for another 10 years.
The town is getting a new industrial park and new business park in the next year. Healthcare facilities and recreational facilities are also on the list of priorities.
Fueling the expansion is the IOC Concentrator Expansion Project, bringing output of iron ore from 18 million to 26 million tonnes per year, expected to be completed in 2012. An expansion study is set to look at raising that output again in the future - this time to 50 million tonnes.
“The effects on the community will be tremendous,” Barnes said.
She said it is “very exciting times,” but acknowledged there were some difficult realities to deal with as well. Low-income earners are being affected by a rising cost of living, housing remains an issue and municipal infrastructure has been taking a beating through the increased activity.
Meanwhile, a consultant planner and former director of planning and development for Fort McMurray, Dennis Peck, encouraged these the mayors, federal government representatives, provincial government representatives, the leaders of Nunatsiavut and the Innu Nation to sit down and develop a plan and prepare for the onslaught of development yet to come in Labrador.
Also a former director of economic development in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Peck offered up the cautionary tale of the early years of the oil sands development boom in Alberta.
Following the presentation by Peck and the close out of the event, former Labrador City mayor Graham Letto said the development is coming faster than expected just two years ago.
“Especially in Western Labrador,” he said. “The community is not ready. It wasn’t ready then and it’s not ready today. And obviously the industry has recognized that and the people living there and certainly the councils that are in place recognize that as well. And they need to put together, now, a strategic plan that encompasses all that, looks at the socio-economic challenges that lie ahead for communities such as Labrador City.”