Late start for winter roads

Hope for cold temps to persist during resupply

Fuel trucks and construction equipment are rolling into Webequie thanks to the colder weather conditions across the north.

“The transports are just starting to roll in now, ever since last week,” says Donald Shewaybick, Webequie’s winter road coordinator, on Feb. 29. “There’s fuel coming in and there is a project going on here that is going to be a gravel haul. They are bringing in two excavators and a backhoe and a dozer.”

Shewaybick says most of the heavy equipment is already in Webequie, but one of the excavators sank into the soft ground along the winter road.

“And even the dozer was stuck there at 85 somewhere,” Shewaybick says. “There is hardly any frost in the ground once you move to the side. The heavy equipment just sinks to one side.”

Shewaybick says the community should be able to bring in all of their supplies this winter if the weather stays cold in March. “If the weather stays good like this, hopefully they will
bring in everything they need,” Shewaybick says.

Shewaybick says the winter road was “pretty rough” earlier on due to mild weather conditions and a lack of snow.
“There were a lot of soft spots in low areas,” Shewaybick says.

First Nation communities across the north began expressing concerns about the winter roads in December and January due to the mild winter conditions. Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias noted his community’s concerns about bringing in enough fuel to heat the community’s school and other buildings on Jan. 22. “If we don’t deliver our fuel this year (by the winter road), then our costs are going to go up,” Moonias says. “We have no choice but to fly in the supplies that we are unable to transport through the winter road. The cost of
trying to bring in these supplies is fairly high when you are using the plane.” Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says the winter roads are becoming less reliable due to changing climate conditions. “We need to start thinking about building all-season roads into our communities,”

Fiddler says, noting the federal government recently announced plans to build an all-season road to Shoal Lake. “Because of concerns around the climate and the unreliability of winter roads, we need to start planning for all-season roads. We need both Ontario and Canada to help us in this process.”

Regional Chief Isadore Day raised the issue on Dec. 19, noting the changing climate is “drastically changing” the way First Nations people live. “I am calling upon our treaty partners, the federal and provincial governments, to step up now and order a Climate Change Impact Study for the north,” Day says. “We can’t wait any longer. Climate change has dramatically reduced the length of time winter roads are accessible causing shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies and increasing the need to fly-in supplies. This results in higher living costs and potential decreases in quality of life and health.