Construction starts on winter roads in N.W.T.

Two remote Tlicho Dene communities are once again about to be connected to the rest of the Northwest Territories by a winter road.

Project manager Tyler Delouw says after months of planning, a crew of 34 is responsible for making this critical piece of infrastructure possible.

“Last year we used 56 pieces of equipment from generators, snowcats, water trucks, graders, all that sort of stuff,” says Delouw. “Generally, this year we started on the 4th of December and we’re looking for construction to end on March 2nd, kick over to maintenance, that’s the Wekweeti portion and Gameti we’re hoping to open up on the 15th.”

In November 2021, the Tlicho community of Whati did away with its winter road operations and opened an all-season road. It ultimately lowered the cost of living and boosted economic development. But the landscape doesn’t allow a permanent road beyond Whati.

Driving, in some cases hundreds of kilometres, isn’t for the faint of heart. Big weather can roll in quickly.

“There’s a couple of trouble spots there on the Gameti portion,” says Delouw. “North Hislop Lake has an overflow whenever the temperatures kind of kick up, so generally there’s a snowcat station there and we deal with that as it comes, just to keep the road open. But when there’s a really bad snowstorm, it can take up to 48 hours to clear the whole road.

Fred Bahrens says the community is patiently waiting to receive fuel, dry goods and lumber – all of which come via the ice road.

Clip: Fred Bahrens Senior Administrative Officer, Wekweeti

“I think I’ve got a duplex for the community government supposed to be coming in,” says Bahrens. “We’ve now waited two years because the ice hasn’t been thick enough to do to bring it in. I believe there’s one other house that’s supposed to be coming in, or a trailer that’s supposed to come in too.”

Building supplies will also be shipped by road to Wekweeti for a new grocery store.

Residents can expect to hit the highway to Gameti in February and Wekweeti by March.

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