Modular homes destined for the beleaguered First Nation settlement of Attawapiskat could start moving along an ice road next week as the vital link to communities on the James Bay coast is about to open.

The James Bay winter road connects Moosonee with communities further north. Essential fuel and supplies move up the ice road each winter, and this year those supplies include modular homes to ease a housing crisis in Attawapiskat.

Wally Turner, operations manager for the James Bay winter road, says the passageway should open to heavy traffic on Monday.

"We are pretty much ahead of schedule, compared to last year," Turner said. "Last year we opened the road to heavy traffic around Feb. 8. This year we are anticipating Feb. 6 for heavy traffic, so the convoys of supplies can go north."

Turner said light traffic is already using the winter road and noted that some fuel has already been transported on it — easing a fuel shortage in James Bay communities.

Journey will take more than a week

Some of the 22 modular homes destined for Attawapiskat are expected to be among the first heavy convoys to head north.

The federal government purchased the homes after the Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency last fall. About two dozen families were living in tent frames and shacks. A healing lodge in the community was converted as a temporary measure and the Canadian Red Cross assisted with emergency aid.

The modular homes are meant to be a more permanent solution. They were shipped to Moosonee in December, where they have been waiting for the ice road to be ready for heavier traffic.

"Every 12 hours there will be a convoy leaving Moosonee, loaded with fuel, as well as loaded with the houses, that need to go to Attawapiskat," Turner said.

It is expected to take more than a week to move all of the modular homes to the community.