No one will be driving to Old Crow this winter.
The remote community is the only one in the Yukon without full-time road access. Instead, the community finds partners and builds a temporary winter road every couple of years, but on Monday it decided to cancel plans for one this winter.
There just isn’t enough snow to build one, said Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Joe Linklater.
While cancelling the road will mean setbacks for a number of infrastructure projects in the community, the cost is too high to gamble on the weather later in the winter, said Linklater.
“It’s a really kind of complex project. What we have to do is commit money ahead of time and it’s risky because it’s a multimillion-dollar project,” he said.
Typically when Old Crow looks to build a winter road, they find partners like the Yukon government or Northern Cross, a company exploring for oil and gas in Eagle Plain.
“We had Northern Cross who wanted 63 km of the road to get to a couple of properties,” said Linklater. “Yukon Electrical also wanted to bring in some equipment.”
The Yukon government, meanwhile, wanted to get material out: scrap metal and electronic waste, said Linklater.
The community has been working on plans for some big infrastructure projects for a number of years, but they’re used to dealing with unco-operative weather, said Linklater.
“Housing is a big one. We wanted to bring in enough material for housing projects for the next two to three years. We also wanted to build a new store, and there’s a new multiplex that we wanted to bring in a drill and some piping to put in the foundation and continue on next year,” said Linklater.
Instead, some of those projects will have to wait until next winter. For the most important ones, Linklater said the community is considering flying in the materials needed.
“Well, we’ve put a lot of money into the planning of it, and we’re going to continue to plan and hopefully we can do it next year. Any projects that are a priority for this year … what we’re going to try to do is make them possible to bring them by air. It’s going to be a bit more expensive, but that’s been the reality we’ve been dealing with all along anyway,” he said.
While the chief is disappointed there won’t be a road, the challenges of isolation are nothing new for Old Crow.
“It’s Mother Nature. We just live with her,” he said.
Contact Jesse Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org