Store shelves getting bare in Tulita, as communities await late government barges
High water levels, late fuel delivery to blame on delays, says government spokesperson
An N.W.T. government barge is almost a month late arriving in Tulita, and the community's store shelves are getting bare.
The territorial government bought the assets of Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL) in December, as the Hay River-based company was heading towards bankruptcy. The assets included 12 ships and 72 barges.
The N.W.T.'s Department of Public Works and Services's original summer barge schedule was released May 16, but it has since changed three times. As a result, none of the communities will be getting their shipments on the anticipated date.
Tulita, Fort Good Hope, Inuvik and Aklavik will get their shipments close to four weeks after the original expected arrival date.
"The shelves are a little more emptier and people [are] complaining because certain things are not on the shelves," said Tulita Mayor Rocky Norwegian.
Norwegian sees a problem with relying on barges, and wants to see a road built to Tulita. He says the delay has also caused problems for local construction.
"I know that people are waiting for material to come in, whether it's to fix their homes or whether it's contractors trying to complete a job."
The local Northern Store flew in pop to satisfy community members, according to a spokesperson for the North West Company, which will temporarily raise the price.
High water levels, fuel delay
Derrick Briggs, director of the government's Marine Transportation Services, said part of the problem is that NTCL wintered all of its barges and ships in Inuvik — meaning they had to spend time getting the equipment to Hay River. That took longer than anticipated because of issues with high water levels, Briggs said.
The barges also couldn't leave without the shipment of fuel for the community, and Briggs said the fuel arrived late from Edmonton, which added to the delay.
"It's a difficult situation and we're doing the best we can with it," Briggs said.