Things are moving along with plans to bring high speed internet to the Slocan Valley — though it will be coming to local homes more than a year later than initially announced.
The head of the $7.2 million project says the project is a little like “watching molasses” at the moment.
“I’m not sure how exciting a news story you’ll have, as we are deep in the permitting process,” says Dave Lampron, the chief operating officer of the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation. “But I’ve got no red flags to report, and things are going as planned.”
The project was announced last March. The Basin’s Broadband Corporation, with financing from the province, Columbia Basin Trust and local municipalities, planned to build a 125-kilometre fibre-optic line from the Playmor Junction in the south to just north of Nakusp.
It’s a complex job with some of the line being buried, some laid as an underwater cable, and some strung up on overhead poles.
It would be the backbone line for delivering high-speed internet to communities up and down the valley. Many residents now can only get internet from slower satellite or microwave systems.
A second part of the project will build a similar line in an under-served area in the East Kootenay.
Since the announcement, the Broadband Corporation has been working its way through the permitting system for the right to build the line.
“Because we have so many permutations of the build — we’re in the Rails to Trails, then in Slocan Lake, then we’re up on the pole system,” says Lampron. “We literally have every single permutation of applications you can think of. So it’s a fairly labourious process that will take some time.”
But Lampron says the good news is they haven’t come across any deal breakers — issues that could block construction of the line or force them to find more expensive solutions.
When officials announced the project, they said they hoped it would be completed in March 2020. That’s been re-thought, and now the estimated completion date is March 2021, a full year later. Construction won’t start until spring of next year.
“We’ve always been attempting to build it as soon as we could,” says Lampron. “But you don’t know when the permitting turnaround will be until you start it.
“Until a few weeks ago, in fact, we were holding on to ‘let’s try to build it inside this calendar year,’” he says. “But then you run into the realities of both issuance and permitting.
“What we stated back in March was true based on what we could forecast on the time,” he says.
Lampron says after getting its permits, the corporation will have to put out tenders and hire contractors to do the actual build.
And that is another unknown — the final price tag on the project. While estimated at $7.2 million, that number will depend on how bids for the project come in and how the weather co-operates with the build timeline.
If all goes well, they hope to break ground on the project sometime between next April and next August, says Lampron. At lot depends on everything from receiving the permits, to consultations with First Nations, to environmental concerns for fish and wildlife in the project’s route.