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Warm temperatures impact winter road to Fort Chip

PHOTO. Supplied. Northern Alberta hamlet, Fort Chipewyan.

The state of the Winter Road to Fort Chipewyan may put the hamlet at risk.

RMWB Councillor Bruce Inglis said the integrity of the winter road at a crucial crossing is weak due to above seasonal temperatures.

“Every winter, we have to bring in several hundred truckloads of diesel fuel to keep our community both electricity on and heated. Unfortunately, because of one particular crossing closest to the community, we have been unable to make ice in spite of this -40 weather.”

Inglis said the load limit should be three times heavier at this time of year.

Unusual weather

Smaller load limits mean lighter traffic and reduced amounts of diesel fuel for the hamlet.

He added the problem is with the old ice bridge on River Desroches about one kilometre west of Fort Chipewyan.

“All the other crossings are built; they are up to a thickness that would hold that weight. Just that one crossing there is something anomalous happening there.”

Winter road crews made a new crossing nearly 10 kilometres downstream from that area as there is less current.

However, Inglis said it’s possible crews detected ice movement in that area as well.

“With the mild weather, it doesn’t look promising that we’re going to be able to achieve 45,000 kg between now and the next month.”

Water flowing from the channel near the town even made travelling on Lake Athabasca unsafe.

Nowadays, Inglis said residents are unwilling to trek across the lake on snowmobiles.

“It’s wide open water. [Sunday], there was a boat driving in the middle of winter on the lake, so it’s very unusual and almost unheard of.”


Inglis said some residents in Fort Chipewyan may be stockpiling fuel and supplies.

However, he added they are taking a “wait and see” approach as he recalled the last time the ice road failed in 1998.

“I feel that the larger agencies like [ATCO] and the Municipality are already examining contingency plans. In 1998, we had to airlift all our fuel in to get to barge season. When barge season arrives, then we can put tractor trailers on barges [and] bring them in. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s doable there.”

As of publication, the load limit for the Fort Chipewyan Winter Road is 15,000 kilograms.