Ice road opens, with limits, to connect Northern Saskatchewan communities

Wollaston Lake finally has enough ice cover to allow some traffic on the winter ice road, a vital link to Saskatchewan's north.

Ice on Wollaston Lake is thick enough for some traffic

Wollaston Lake's ice road provides vital transportation access to many northern Saskatchewan communities.

For some communities in Northern Saskatchewan the mild winter has restricted access to their ice roads — and essential supplies.

However, last week — much later than normal — an ice road over Wollaston Lake was officially opened, but with some weight restrictions.

"The minimum ice thickness is 20 inches. So for limited weight we are opening," Anne Robillard, CEO of the Hatchet Lake Development Limited Partnership, said.

That means vehicles with a total weight of up to 15,000 kilograms can use the ice road.

Robillard noted that before the road was open, and despite Road Closed signs, there have been people risking the drive to bring in supplies.

The Hatchet Lake Dene First Nation has been low on necessities like propane for heating and gasoline.

Building materials have also been waiting to get north and Robillard said they've had to delay some construction projects.

Some of the material is too heavy to move safely over the 20-inch thick ice and Robillard said she isn't sure if the items will ever make it to the community this winter.

"It's tough to say because the weather is mild again and we'd be lucky if we get a few more inches of ice," she said Friday.

To bring up larger loads they require another 10 inches of ice (bringing the thickness to 30 inches).

The familiar measure of ice thickness is in inches. Ten inches is equal to 25.4 centimetres.

If the weather remains mild, Robillard said they will have to wait for the lake ice to break up and use a barge to bring in supplies.

But the winter has also seen low snowfall amounts and the lack of moisture could lead to problems getting across the lake on watercraft.

"We struggled with extremely low water levels last summer," Robillard said.

Last Wednesday the situation with ice roads was brought up in Parliament. The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, said the government is in contact with communities affected by the warmer than usual winter and is looking at immediate and long-term solutions.


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