Old Crow winter road planned for 2014

Old Crow is set to get a winter road this season, assuming the weather co-operates. A road was supposed to go in last winter, but it was cancelled because there wasn't enough snow.

Old Crow is set to get a winter road this season, assuming the weather co-operates.

A road was supposed to go in last winter, but it was cancelled because there wasn’t enough snow.

Of course, conditions changed as soon as the decision had been made, said Chief Joe Linklater of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

“Within days afterwards it started to snow, and within a week or two we had enough snow to actually build a winter road. But all the projects were cancelled by that time.”

The community has not been connected by road since 2004. Old Crow is Yukon’s only fly-in community.

At this point, weather conditions are still “touch and go,” said Linklater.

Sufficient snow is crucial to ensure that the ground cover remains relatively undamaged by the road.

But the First Nation will forge ahead with the plan to build the road.

If, in the end, the snow never shows, the First Nation has a back-up plan, said Linklater.

It will prioritize the capital projects it has planned for the next few years, and fly in the material it can by Hercules or other aircraft, he said.

Old Crow has been trying to get a winter road built for many years. It had a permit in 2007, but it expired before the community made use of it.

There are a lot of logistics to co-ordinate, said Linklater.

“It’s a huge project, probably a year or more in the planning.”

In addition to organizing the construction and maintenance of the road itself, the First Nation must also carefully plan what materials will come in and how trucks will be loaded and unloaded efficiently.

“In order to pull it off, we have to be prepared at both ends of the road to stage things so that there are no delays in bringing in material, because that’s a cost, and on this end we have to be prepared to receive it and to store it at various sites throughout the community,” said Linklater.

The First Nation plans to bring in material to sustain capital projects for the next few years. Plans include a new store, expanded fuel storage and new housing.

Stuff will be leaving the community as well.

Yukon’s Department of Community Services, for example, plans to co-ordinate with the First Nation to ship out scrap metal to have it properly disposed of outside the community.

The road is more than 280 kilometres long, said Linklater. It meets the Dempster Highway just south of Eagle Plains, and then meanders to the northwest towards the community.

For the last 10 or 15 kilometres, the road follows the river into town, said Linklater.

“It’s quite a sight to see a bunch of big trucks coming down the Porcupine River.”

The road is expected to cost up to $1.4 million, including maintenance costs. The Yukon government has agreed to split the costs with the First Nation, up to $700,000.

The plan is to have the road ready for travel by February 24, and have it open through March 17.

The road is not open to the public, and permits are required to bring freight down it.

It will only have one lane, so traffic can only travel in one direction at a given time, said Linklater.

Community members will have an opportunity to get personal purchases, like furniture or vehicles, trucked in. The company in charge of the trucking will offer a freight rate to the public, he said.

The road will generate a great deal of economic activity for the Yukon, said Linklater.

“This project itself does have some fairly substantial economic spin-offs, when you consider that anybody that gets paid to do any kind of work as a result of this road pays taxes as well. I think the economic spin-offs are quite considerable, not just to Old Crow but to the Yukon in general.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at