'We were caught off-guard:' Early spring blamed for N.W.T. ferry holdup

N.W.T. transportation minister Wally Schumann says an early thaw is the reason why Mackenzie Delta ferries have been sitting idle, and is also to blame for deteriorating road conditions in the South Slave.

Peel River ferry set to enter service by Thursday morning, says minister

N.W.T. transportation minister Wally Schumann says the territory was 'caught off-guard' by an early thaw, which has resulted in a hold-up in getting ferry services online despite the territory's rivers being clear for some time. (CBC)

An early spring surprised N.W.T. transportation officials when it came to preparing the Mackenzie Delta's ferries.

Wally Schumann, the territory's transportation minister, was questioned by Frederick Blake Jr. about the ferries on Tuesday as the territory's politicians reconvened for the first day of session.

Blake — the MLA for the riding of Mackenzie Delta — wanted to know why the Tsiigehtchic ferry only entered service on Sunday, with the Peel River ferry still out of action, despite the rivers having been clear of ice for some time.

"We did experience an earlier spring than normal: the river broke up early on the Peel and the Mackenzie," said Schumann. "It has kind of caught the department a little off-guard."

Schumann expects the Peel River ferry to be operational by Thursday morning this week, saying federal inspectors need to complete their work before service can begin.

Both ferries usually enter operation at the start of June, but Blake said residents had been growing impatient after the rivers cleared early.

Meanwhile, Schumann told Dehcho MLA Michael Nadli the early spring is also to blame for problems on some of the territory's roads.

Nadli asked how the territory plans to address the poor condition of an access road leading from the highway to the Hay River Reserve.

The minister said the early thaw had "created challenges on the road system" and repairs would begin "as soon as time allows."