February 21, 2024

It’s not recognized when the winter highway might be robust sufficient for heavy cargo vans to succeed in Fort Chipewyan. A heat winter that adopted a wildfire evacuation has made ACFN repeat requires a everlasting highway.

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An unseasonably heat winter and a chaotic wildfire season this yr makes a everlasting highway to Fort Chipewyan much more necessary to the neighborhood, says Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN).

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The winter highway connecting Fort Chipewyan and Fort McMurray opens Dec. 20 at midday solely to gentle automobiles weighing as much as 5,000 kgs. It’s not recognized when the highway might be robust sufficient for vans to crisscross a whole lot of kilometres of frozen wetlands and boreal forest to ship development supplies, gas and different giant cargo shipments.

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“Persons are all the time asking when the winter highway opens. I can by no means reply that, solely Mom Nature can resolve when,” stated Adam.

Adam has met with the mayors of the Regional Municipality of Wooden Buffalo (RMWB) and Fort Smith, and says there may be settlement that an all-weather highway is required.

Fort Chipewyan’s evacuation throughout final summer time’s wildfire season exhibits a everlasting route is required for emergencies, he stated, in addition to resupplying the neighborhood. The winter highway must assist 45,000 kgs for the heaviest cargo vans to journey north.

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Meals is flown into the neighborhood all yr, however vans could make giant shipments extra frequent. Fort Chipewyan has sufficient gas to final although winter. Massive cargo shipments can arrive on barges, however Lake Athabasca’s water ranges have shrank lately.

The winter roads are additionally essential for morale. Folks in Fort Chipewyan use them to go to household and associates, and store. Adam says folks all the time hope the roads open earlier than Christmas, which can be a aim for the RMWB.

winter road
A truck heads north on the Fort Chipewyan winter highway on Friday, February 9, 2018. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Immediately/Postmedia Community SunMedia

Strengthening ice river crossings progressing, however difficult: RMWB

“Crews have made appreciable progress constructing the highway this season regardless of delays on account of heat climate, as nighttime temperature drops have been sufficient to permit ice thickness to extend,” stated RMWB spokesperson Cullen Chook in an e mail.

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The winter highway has 5 main river crossings between Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan. These crossings are strengthened by flooding these sections to construct thickness. Adam stated work crews have happily not misplaced ice thickness, even when heat climate means progress is sluggish.

The RMWB and native First Nations haven’t but organized emergency airlifts into Fort Chipewyan, however Chook provides there are contingency plans to fly in gas, meals and different important gadgets if wanted.

Airlifts have been organized throughout previous winter highway seasons. In 1998, ice crossings have been too weak to assist any site visitors. Adjusted for inflation, the Alberta authorities spent greater than $1.5 million flying in meals, oil and gasoline. One other airlift was thought-about in 2020 if employees didn’t strengthen an ice highway crossing on the Des Rochers River.

The final Fort Chipewyan winter highway season lasted 110 days. This was the primary winter highway season to final greater than 100 days for the reason that 2016-17 season.

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