Dempster blocked through weekend

About 60 trucks heading to Inuvik were holed-up at Eagle Plains this weekend after the ferry over the Peel River near Fort McPherson closed Thursday. “They’re rolling in, and they just can’t move.

About 60 trucks heading to Inuvik were holed-up at Eagle Plains this weekend after the ferry over the Peel River near Fort McPherson closed Thursday.

“They’re rolling in, and they just can’t move. We’re bottlenecked here,” said Stan McNevin, who owns the Eagle Plains Hotel on the Dempster Highway.

Adding to the backlog are transport trucks carrying gear for a military operation planned near Inuvik involving about 600 personnel.

The army contracted a total of 69 trucks to bring supplies to Inuvik, although some have already arrived, said Lt. Paul Pendergast.

Camp is already being set up for Operation Nanook, and some personnel have been on the ground for two weeks. The military operation will go ahead as planned, Pendergast said.

However, even after the ferry re-opens, the backlog is expected to continue for several days, McNevin said.

“The cycle time for the ferry is about 40 minutes, and with 50, 60 trucks you’re looking at at least 48 hours to just clear the trucks that are here, let alone any of the stuff that’s sitting in Whitehorse.”

The trouble on the Dempster began on Wednesday morning, when flooding washed out the highway in two places south of Eagle Plains.

The Engineer Creek campground was also closed as a result of the flooding, but it re-opened Friday.

Emergency crews were able to repair the highway and open it to traffic Thursday morning.

But travellers headed north were in for another surprise, as the ferry over the Peel River beyond Eagle Plains closed at about the same time the highway opened.

The ferry, which is guided over the river by a cable, was closed due to high water levels and floating debris.

Initially, officials predicted a 24-hour closure, but the ferry remained closed as of Monday morning. Officials anticipated being able to re-open the ferry Monday afternoon.

Truckers and tourists at Eagle Plains eagerly awaited the news.

“They’re getting crazy. They’re getting a little antsy,” McNevin said.

Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival, which began Friday, was also affected by the delays. Some of the artwork scheduled to be shipped to the festival was stuck behind the closures.

“It means some disappointed artists who sent their stuff up in advance, and didn’t get it here on time,” said Sasha Webb, executive director of the festival, last week.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com