After being talked about for many years, the long-awaited bridge in Mistissini over Uupaachikus Pass linking the community with land across the water is finally going to happen. Motivation for building the bridge is not only for residential development, but also for what lies on the other side – gravel.

Without any gravel left for public works projects, Mistissini was approaching a dire situation where they were on the verge of having to import natural granular material from Chibougamau and so the hunt began for where the community could find a new source.

According to Emmett Macleod, Director of Municipal Services for Mistissini, this new project is critical for the community because it will affect all public works projects whether they are for private-home builders, local businesses, institutional projects or community projects.

“Mistissini has zero gravel. This means for a house project, a local business project or a Band Council or School Board project, we have no gravel to provide for it and so works cannot happen.

“If we were to do any project, we would have to buy gravel from Chibougamau and the cost would go through the roof as we would then have to truck it in.

“If we are constructing a road, a facility or housing, these projects require gravel. Some of it is sand, some of it is coarser gravel and different sizes of gravel have different uses,” said Macleod.

This shortage was foreseen in 1999, which is when investigations were started in order to find a natural borrow pit or to create a new quarry. Going with a natural borrow pit cost about 3.5 times less than a quarry and so that was the direction that Mistissini chose.

According to Macleod, two borrow pits were located on the west side of Uupaachikus Pass about 4.5 kilometres away.

The development of a feasibility study was completed which looked at different ways to access the material, such as an ice bridge or driving around (via the ICON road), but in the end the best and most cost-effective long-term solution is a permanent bridge.

The project has been in the planning stages for the past four years and this includes surveying, soil testing (geotechnical) as well as an environmental impact assessment for the bridge and accompanying road project with a 2013 completion date.

The first two priorities behind building a bridge were to access the natural granular requirement for any future projects and then reduce the costs as much as possible. A third priority is to access and then develop new residential lots, which will happen in about seven years according to Macleod.

With the community of Mistissini rapidly expanding, the demand for housing and the land needed to develop it on would be shortly running out if it weren’t for the new 300+ lots that this project will be opening up on the other side of the bridge.

And, with the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay announcing that 52 new units will be built in Mistissini as part of their new Agreement with the Quebec government, this project couldn’t have come at a better time.

“This is how crucial it is for Mistissini. We currently have about 50 lots available that are ready to go. You could put houses on these lots because the infrastructure is ready. With our current needs and with the Health Board’s needs, these lots will be filled up within the next two years or two and a half years,” said Macleod.

The project should be completed in the summer of 2013.