Communities still waiting on winter road supply runs
Changing climate conditions across Nishnawbe Aski Nation continue to affect the winter road system used to bring in fuel, building products and other supplies.
“The winter road system is gradually being phased out through these changes in the weather system,” said Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Chief Donny Morris. “It’s making it more difficult each year for us to haul in heavy equipment, housing, fuel, gas. As of today (March 8), I haven’t even hauled anything because we don’t know if the road is going to hold out and we can’t commit to buying materials, tanks, fuel, gas and not have it delivered. At the end of the day, if that turns out, you’re going to be spending more flying it in while at the same time you’ve already paid for the merchandise.”
Morris said community members began travelling out on the winter road in their personal vehicles as of March 7.
“That’s about all we can do is give these people a break from the community, the rez life, so they can drive out,” Morris said. “I hope it holds up for at least two weeks so people can enjoy the highway. But then again, we don’t know — a hot spell could happen and that could wipe out the snow.”
Morris said an early snowfall prevented the ice from freezing as thick as normal on area lakes, rivers and streams.
“Mother nature dropped a whole bunch of snow and just made it warmer underneath,” Morris said. “You need the water to freeze before it snows, but that didn’t happen. It snowed abundantly and that slush froze and it’s just white ice, which is not strong enough to hold up equipment.”
Morris noted that two winter road construction workers lost their lives through the ice this winter.
“That’s the price we pay due to the fact of global warming.” Morris said.
Deer Lake Councillor Johnny Meekis said the weather conditions have also impacted their community’s winter road this year as well, noting the community has not received any supplies as of March 8.
“One of the lakes doesn’t have adequate ice,” Meekis said. “Maybe only half loads, I was told, but that was about a week-and-a-half ago. They’re going to start driving Monday (March 11) for fuel, but I don’t know how much of that we can get.”
Meekis said the winter road season has been shorter than normal over the past few years.
“Last year we got caught with some of the loads not able to make it up,” Meekis said.
Meekis said prices start to go up in the community when all the supplies are not brought in by winter road.
“It’s mainly the gas that jumps up,” Meekis said. “When (Northern Stores) has to use a plane, (food) prices come up a bit.”
Keewaywin Acting Chief Eddie Meekis said the changing climate conditions have been “really bad” for his community’s winter road, noting his community has only received two loads of fuel as of March 8.
“Before it usually lasted until the end of March,” Eddie Meekis said. “But now it’s sometimes the beginning of March when the deliveries stop. Everybody has to rush in order to get their fuel.”
Eddie Meekis said an accident on the night of March 7 has closed the winter road for a couple of days.
“Last night one of those mobile homes semi-trailers kind of jackknifed, so the road is closed,” Eddie Meekis said. “That’s going to stall everything and then the weather is not going to wait a couple of more days to get warm.”
Poplar Hill Deputy Chief Jacob Strang said the ice has not been as thick on his community’s winter road over the past two years.
“(But) we’ve been bringing in everything that we need,” Strang said. “For the past two years it looks like it’s cold for one week and then warm up and then cold. That’s the difference that I notice.”
KI and Keewaywin both had -2 C temperatures on March 8.
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