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N.W.T. portion of Dempster Highway to temporarily close this year

The stretch between kilometre 1 and 14.2 of Highway 8 will shut down once ferries stop operating for the season, according to a news release from the Northwest Territories government Thursday morning.

N.W.T. government says it intends to reopen highway when ice crossings open for season

The first 14 kilometres of the N.W.T. section of the Dempster Highway, or Highway 8, will be closed for the season due to COVID-19, the territory says. The government intends to reopen the highway when ice crossings open. (CBC)

Part of the N.W.T. section of the Dempster Highway will be temporarily closed for the season, leaving some towns virtually cut off from the rest of Canada's road network until the ice roads open.

The stretch between kilometre 1 and 14.2 of Highway 8, which connects the N.W.T. to Yukon in the Beaufort Delta, will shut down once ferries stop operating for the season, according to a news release from the Northwest Territories government Thursday morning.

The stretch of highway leads from Yukon to the communities of Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson, both accessible seasonally by ferry and winter road.

The release says both ferries — one crossing the Peel River and connecting the highway to the Yukon border, and the other crossing the Mackenzie River, connecting it to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk — are "on notice" and could close within days, depending on the conditions.

It suggests people complete their travels, including the movement of essential goods and services, before the shut down.

The territory says it intends to reopen the highway when ice crossings open for the season. Until then, it recommends drivers use Highway 1, which connects the southern part of the territory to Alberta, to enter or leave the N.W.T.

The government says though the road has been left open in previous years, it's being shut down this time in light of COVID-19, since border patrol staff can't "easily access certain sections of highway with the ferries out of service."

"The Commissioner of the Northwest Territories has made this order under the Public Highways Act to support the Chief Public Health Officer's response to COVID-19," the release reads in part.

The territory warns people that it is unsafe and illegal to drive on a closed highway. Emergency, enforcement and construction vehicles are exempt from the closure.

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