Concept art of what the new interior of Mike Zubko Airport will look like when it is completed in 2023.
(courtesy GNWT)

Residents of Inuvik got a detailed explanation of planned upgrades to Mike Zubko Airport that are expected to begin this summer and carry on until 2024.

Director of Air and Marine Safety Delia Chesworth told residents at a Feb. 18 meeting that once the expansion is completed, aircraft of any size will be able to land at the airport thanks to a wider and much longer runway.

Funding for the $26 million upgrades are being provided through grants from both the federal and territorial government as part of the Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation program.

Environmental factors being looked at in the improvements include dust, noise and erosion control, better procedures for handling and cleanup of hazardous waste and fuel, and better emergency contingency plans.

“The big thing is the settlement of the pavements and grated areas due to the permafrost warming,” said engineer Derek Blayney. “The other big thing we’re looking at is precipitation. A lot of the climate change modelling shows that overall most regions — and Inuvik is definitely included — are seeing less precipitation but it comes in more intense storms. So that might mean the culverts need a larger diameter, things like that.”

Specific improvements include widening both the main runway and Taxi way C for larger aircraft and reconstructing Taxi way D, which has the dual problem of culverts filling up with sediment and leaking warmer water into permafrost, which causes it to thaw faster and disrupts the foundation. A storm water management overhaul is also in the cards.

Other aspects of the development involve lighter coloured asphalt to minimize heat absorbed and insulating both the runway and drainage systems to prevent heat transfer to permafrost.

On top of these improvements, the Canadian Forces are also at work on their own runway extension.

Final planning stages on the runway side of the improvements is expected to get underway this summer, including tendering out contracts, extracting the rock from the airport quarry and finalizing the design. Construction of the new runways is expected to be completed by summer 2022.

During the construction, the runway is to remain open for all scheduled and medevac flights, though charter flights may need to do some further planning ahead to work around the construction.

Chesworth noted during the meeting that the construction season in summer has very long days, so there would be plenty of room for adjusting construction schedules and had done so in the past.

Airport terminal to begin construction

On the second night of meetings, Chesworth explained construction of the new airport terminal will begin this summer and be completed by the end of 2023.

It will be long in coming. Airport facility planner Tammy Allison said a technical evaluation was completed in 2005 that concluded it made more sense to replace the terminal. The new terminal will be build where the RCMP building used to stand.

“The demolition is pretty much done,” she said. “Going forward, we will see the RCMP demolition finished, the architectural and engineering services finish up and then we’ll see the construction. The hope is we’ll have the construction contract in place this summer.

“Come 2021, we would see the foundation go in and would see the superstructure of the facility through to the summer, to the fall 2022 to build the entire facility. That would be the substantial completion target date, that means we’re ready to occupy. There still might be some small deficiencies and all the deficiencies will be cleaned up by winter 2023.”

At the Feb. 19 meeting, Allison went over the new floor plan and design for the airport terminal, which will feature a second floor for administration and be built with better accessibility for mobility impaired passengers in mind. A suggestion to have a second gate to ensure flight manifests don’t get mixed up will be taken back to the designer.

Allison added that the plan was to begin demolishing the old terminal as soon as the new one is in use to make room for further construction.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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  1. All for one 737 flight a day!! The old terminal is fine, maybe a renovation and some energy certification needed. New terminal is a huge waste of money.