2012-Prince Rupert is situated on the north coast of British Columbia and is located within the traditional territory of the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla people. Over 1,200 First Nations people reside on the Tsimshian Peninsula. The Lax Kw'alaams First Nation is located 20 km north of Prince Rupert and the Metlakatla First Nation is located on the Peninsula near Venn Passage. While located only a short distance from Prince Rupert, both of these communities are isolated from the city, having access only to intermitent ferry or water taxi service.
The Prince Rupert Airport is located on Digby Island and air travelers must travel on buses via ferry in order to commute between the airport and the city. While the airport is only about 5 km from the city, travelling to the airport takes approximately one and a half hours. This lack of access has hindered business development and has limited Prince Rupert's ability to attract new investment while hindering the ability of the First Nations communities to grow and access vital community services.
In 2009, the City of Prince Rupert and their partners, Lax Kw'alaams, Metlakatla, received funding from Northern Development and BC's Ministry of Transportation to investigate the feasibility of a major transportation infrastructure project aimed at addressing access to the airport and First Nations communities. A feasibility study was conducted and it was determined that the Digby Island/Tsimshian Peninsula Access Project would be economically feasible and advantageous for all involved project partners.
The results of the study provided the City and its partners with recommendations concerning a location for a ferry terminal on Digby Island, the consolidation of multiple local ferry services into a single ferry operation, and the construction of roadways linking the Lax Lw'alaams and Metlakatla communities and ferry terminals. The final report of the study outlines the steps that are required to move the project along to the next phase including the major capital fundraising that will be required, and ultimately recommends that the project be further developed.
The study identified significant operational savings, savings to airport users, proceeds from real estate, and numerous social benefits that could be realized through investment in the Digby Island/Tsimshian Peninsula Access Project. Additional economic spin-offs from this project were identified in air service, aquaculture and fish processing, tourism, as well as future land development. It is anticipated that the Tsimshian Peninsula Access Project could potentially add annual employment income to the economy, and produce net transportation savings for the City of Prince Rupert.
The Digby Island/Tsimshian Peninsula Access Project would allow for vehicle traffic to access or depart from the airport and area every thirty minutes from Prince Rupert. Regular access to Digby Island and the Tsimshian Peninsula would create the opportunity for potential development on Digby Island. With the ongoing major investment and transportation infrastructure development in Prince Rupert that is connected to the Fairview Container Terminal, land on Digby Island could be accessed for warehousing, air cargo, and cold storage related to fishing and food products.