Churchill Asking Santa for Ice Road

Santa Claus might just make it to the polar bear capital of the world via his sleigh this year! If all goes a planned, this coming Christmas Churchillians will have an “ice road” that will allow shipping of various goods and supplies, not to mention Christmas presents to the isolated town from the south.

The “road”, over frozen tundra and icy ponds, is being carved out between Gillam and Churchill and reports are that two-thirds of the passage is complete. Christmas is the projected finish date though the hope is that it will be functional before that.

“I kind of want to bring this as a Christmas Present to Churchill,” said Mark Kohaykewych of Polar Industries. “I want to roll in there before the 25th.”

 

Fox Lake Cree Nation and Churchill’s Remote Area Services have been working with Polar Industries, the main contractor, for weeks constructing a 300-kilometre “ice road” between Churchill and Gillam. With the Hudson Bay Line, as the stretch is referred to, washed out, the town has become isolated by no land accessibility. Cargo shipped by air has become prohibitively costly for businesses and residents. Line and port owner Omnitrax continues to battle with the Federal government over who’s responsible for the track repairs. In the meantime, and basically out of desperation, the three groups launched a plan to bring perishable food and supplies and fuel to Churchill.

Progress over the rough terrain has been unexpectantly faster than anticipated.Check out this video link of the work taking place in the north:

“We went up on Friday just to see the progress of what my crew was doing and I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We’ve probably got about 110 kilometres left to go.”

Work crews have faced one major barrier despite the unseasonal frigid temperatures in November…waiting for freeze-up of some of the deeper thermokarsts or tundra ponds and connecting creeks that are scattered all across the tundra.

Ice road to Churchill

Ice road construction between Gillam and Churchill. Mark Kohaykewych photo.

“You’re pushing snow over it, then you’ve got to let it freeze, flood, create ice. For my crew up there and myself, we’re not very patient up there, let me tell you that. Trying to wait for the ice to freeze up properly is like watching paint dry for most folks.”

While on site, work crews are utilizing old trappers cabins to sleep and get out of the cold after long, extended shifts in efforts to finish before Christmas.

“I think at the start, a lot of people were skeptical about this and as we get closer and closer and sharing our progress, the response is overwhelming. I didn’t realize how much of an effect we’d actually have on the town.” stated Kohaykewych.

While major efforts are enduring and progress has been dramatic, Kohaykewych is appealing to the Canadian government for some funding to help with the meager budget Polar Industries has for the project.

“So, if anybody out there can assist us to put pressure on some government agencies to get some funding and assistance here, and get this done on a non-shoe-strong budget, we’d greatly appreciate it.”

The project comes on the heels of the polar bear season in Churchill, a much needed economic boost to the community!

Churchill Railway Limbo – Video

The Hudson Bay Line is still in limbo with the Port of Churchill still up for sale by Omnitrax. This video was earlier in the discovery process of just what the next steps should be to repair and reinstate train service to Churchill. Churchill residents and town officials are getting fed up with the same old rhetoric they are being fed from Omnitrax and the Canadian Government! We’re hoping for a speedy resolution to the crisis.

Canadian Government Will Protect Caribou Herd

woodland caribou

Caribou gather near Roundrock Lake west of Lac de Gras in N.W.T. Anne Gunn/COSEWIC photo.

 

The Canadian government will be implementing a protection plan for the threatened boreal or woodland caribou herd in the north. The decision comes three months after the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPWS) filed a judicial review application in Federal Court this past April outlining how Environment minister Catherine McKenna concealed protection plans from the public regarding the herd.

The federal plan reaffirms the jurisdiction of territorial and provincial governments over the land responsibility where the caribou naturally roam. Progress reports will be required by federal officials ensuring recovery and protection efforts are being carried out effectively. Over 80 per cent of the country’s woodland caribou herds are considered in decline.

An attorney for the CPWS, Frederic Paquin, has cited the Species at Risk Act as a reason to open the discussion to “form opinions regarding whether or not the critical habitat of the woodland caribou is being protected in a sustainable manner.” Federal government press releases have qualified the new plan as “fulfilling Canada’s commitments under the federal Species at Risk Act.”

Environmental activists are skeptical of the scope of the new plan in informing Canadians what the federal government is doing toward conserving the various caribou herds in a timely and comprehensive manner.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society emphatically states that it will continue pushing for transparency from Environment Canada through legal action even after government action.

CPWS biologist Alain Branchaud, states Minister McKenna is required to report on which herds remain unprotected and what actions are being taken to preserve the caribou herds. Branchaud does not believe the outlined government plan successfully does what is needed for complete protection.

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