Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson announced at a meeting of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) chiefs in Thompson Jan. 13 that the Manitoba East Side Road Authority should finish an all-season road from Provincial Road 304 to Berens River First Nation by 2019-20.
“All-season road access is so important for the families who remain isolated in their home communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg,” said Robinson in a news release. “This winter is proving to be very challenging for our winter road system due to above-average temperatures delaying the roads opening by as much as three weeks. This is yet another reason why we need that all-season road.”
Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton told the Nickel Belt News last week that ice formation is two or three weeks behind compared to a typical winter.
“I was talking to somebody from Tadoule Lake,” said Ashton. “There’s like only eight inches of ice on the lake there and that’s just unheard of for this time of year. This is one for the record books. The only thing that’s helping us is lack of snow but what we need is some pretty hard frozen -30 overnights. Either way we’re going to be in a shorter season but we’re not done yet. I wouldn’t say we won’t get a winter road season. The question is when it will be open and how long it will be and it could be a very abbreviated winter road season.”
Two new Acrow Panel bridges over the Hayes and Laidlaw rivers near Oxford House will be open for the first time this year, Robinson said, after construction began on them last March. Acrow Panel bridges are prefabricated and assembled on-site after shipping. The opening of these two brings the total number of Acrow Panel bridges on the future all-season road network to 11, with five of those constructed under the stewardship of the East Side Road Authority. The 11 bridges are worth $10 million all together and their construction has employed 42 residents from the area that will be served by the east side all-weather road.