Churchill Will Get Winter Ice Road

People in Churchill and the north have been talking about a road to Churchill for as long as I can remember. Now the dream will become a reality sooner than later with the original “ice road truckers” coming to the rescue! Only news such as this can take the lead news story during the polar bear season!

Churchill train station sits idle with no trai service.

The Churchill train depot sits idle as no service from the south is operating due to damaged tracks. A proposed winter ice road may ease the burden for local residents. Natural Habitat Adventures photo.

While the solution is not exactly what Churchillians had in mind to replace the abandoned and washed out Hudson Bay Line, it will allow a reprieve of sorts from the lack of supplies and disconnect with the outer world. The only way to get in and out of Churchill at the moment is by air. The sea route will soon be closed off with the winter ice forming.

Fox Lake Cree Nation and Remote Area Services is partnering with Polar Industries based in Winnipeg are joining forces to construct a winter road to Churchill from Gillam.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Files</p><p>Mark Kohaykewych, president of Polar Industries, says his team is confident in the project.</p>

Mark Kohaykewych, president of Polar Industries has a confident team to complete the road. Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Files

Mark Kohaykewych, president of Polar Industries, hopes to haul roughly 250 loads throughout winter to isolated  Churchill on the shores of the Hudson Bay. The initial plan is to haul loads of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds to start and increase to 80,000 pounds per load as the ice road takes form over the winter.

“I’ve never backed down from a challenge,” Kohaykewych said. “We’re confident we can get this done.”

Kohaykewych stated that three alternate routes have been mapped out with plans to build the road prior to Christmas. Cargo vehicles will begin hauling by January, dependant on the amount of snowfall and presiding weather conditions. With a rough terrain formed by glacial movement over thousands of years, the small thermokarsts or ponds formed as a result were partly responsible for the flooding that washed out the tracks. As they freeze over winter and snow build -up occurs, the ice road will be more level.

Up to 15 vehicles will be utilized on the ice road project. Wide -track vehicles that are good in the snow with light, wide trackpads will be needed to sufficiently transport heavy loads at a moderate speed. Kohaykewych estimates that three-vehicle convoys will leave daily from Gillam and take 30 hours to cover the 300 – kilometer distance in about 30 hours.

However, he notes that this is not a long-term solution to the crisis the disabled rail line has caused for the town of 900 people. Once winter ends the road will not be passable. Hopes are that a solution to the train route will be found by then.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to keep up with the demand,” Kohaykewych said.

“We have customers in hand and we’re talking with various Churchill operations who will need help.”

Kohaykewych, originally a hometown boy from Churchill, has been collaborating on the project for several months with Churchill Mayor Mike Spence. The two, along with Fox Lake,  are prepared to finance the ice road themselves though they are hoping for some provincial assistance as well.

“This effort is to provide much-needed goods and supplies to the community in the short term,” said Fox Lake Chief Walter Spence. “Fox Lake continues to support the Churchill community and Mayor Spence’s efforts to have the rail line repaired and back in operation as quickly as possible.”

Polar Industries is the longest-featured company on Ice Road Truckers and if any company can get this done it’s them. Their experience in many of the most dangerous places to build winter ice roads in North America will be ample knowledge for the relatively safe terrain between Gillam and Churchill.

“This is not unfamiliar territory. We have gone into places like Peawanuck and Fort Severn (on the Hudson Bay coast in Ontario) and that’s a 450-500-kilometre stretch of strictly bush travel,” Kohaykewych said.

With all the media coverage on this potential new venture, Churchill should get the much-needed rail service back sooner than later.

Iqaluit Snowstorm Rings In Fall

This early season in Nunavut’s capital city Iqaluit has signaled the beginning of a northern winter season. All across the Arctic and sub- Arctic, the temperatures are dropping and snow has either fallen or soon will be blowing in the air across tundra and Precambrian rock outcrops.

Churchill’s polar bear season, which begins in a week, will take on a different feel this year as the Hudson Bay Rail line is still inoperable and repairs are surely not going to be initiated before spring at this juncture. Hopes are high for an influx of travelers by air coming as usual to see the magnificent polar bears and other Arctic wildlife roaming the Churchill Wildlife Management Area and in the bluffs of Cape Merry. Their presence will give hope both financially and spiritually to Churchillians trying to withstand the isolation and strife the disaster to the rail – line has caused since last May.

Stay posted to our site for all the normal exciting news from polar bear season as well as updates on how townsfolk are dealing with no train service. Should be an exciting season with lots of news from Churchill!

Churchill Sunday Photo – Port of Uncertainty

Port of Churchill

The Port of Churchill has been a symbol of uncertainty in Churchill. Katie de Meulles photo.

The uncertainty surrounding the Port of Churchill sale by owner Omnitrax from Colorado to a native alliance coupled with the natural destruction of the Hudson Bay Line has left Churchillians wondering the future of their town. This photo of the port captures the plight and the promise of the the time all in one image!

Churchill Mayor Spence and Citizen Speak about Railine

The train crisis in Churchill is becoming a hot issue and Mayor Mike Pence has spoken out against the projection by track owner Omnitrax of a winter or even spring repair order and opening. A town meeting last night in Churchill drew nearly half of the 900 residents in town.This issue will be one we follow for the forseeable future as it has incredible impact on Churchillians and travelers hoping to visit for beluga whale and polar bear season. Stay tuned for updates on this developing story.

 

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