A long road, a long life

The Vuntut Gwitchin government has put a proposal before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board for permission to build a winter road between Old Crow and Eagle Plains.

Yukon’s only fly-in community wants a road – for the winter, at least.

The Vuntut Gwitchin government has put a proposal before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board for permission to build a winter road between Old Crow and Eagle Plains.

They have done this before, more than once.

However this time is different.

The First Nation has asked for the permit to last 50 years.

“It’s more of a convenience thing so we don’t have to submit a proposal every year,” says Chief Joe Linklater.

The permit’s extended lifespan would give the Vuntut Gwitchin the ability to decide if yearly conditions allow for the road.

Environmental concerns and climate-change effects on permafrost and snow coverage will be reviewed each year, as well as the status and location of the revered Porcupine caribou herd, says Linklater.

“Hopefully the Yukon government will supply a road for us once every three years,” he says. “Every community in the Yukon has road access year-round. What we would like to have is, at least once every three years, road access to Old Crow to bring down the cost of food and fuel and whatnot.”

A winter road, or the less invasive cat train (which consists of caterpillar machines pulling laden sleds) are more efficient than flying in large equipment – usually in parts – for construction projects, says Linklater.

Replacing the elementary school was the last such project to require a winter road and there are some major projects that the community is looking to get done, says Linklater, adding that they feel a road once every three years should suffice.

There is a current permit for a road that was granted in 2007. But it will expire in the new year and a road was never built, says Shelby Jordan, manager of the Dawson City assessment board office.

It is assessing this new proposal for a five-metre-wide road, running 260 kilometres.

The road will follow the same route used in the past and would be mainly on land, but would cross a few creeks and the Porcupine River.

The route actually follows roads that were used 50 or 60 years ago, says Jordan.

The board will assess impacts to the environment and wildlife.

Aside from potential impacts to the environment, wildlife and the North Yukon Regional Land-Use Plan, the board will focus on the number of times the road may be built and the length of the permit, says Jordan.

“There are definitely some serious considerations that we have, that have to be made when we’re looking at a 50-year lifespan,” she says. “We can’t predict the future. It’s definitely something different from the last time we did an assessment.”

Public comments on this project can be submitted to the board until the end of December.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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