Northern Cargo Detours 4,000 km Due to “Historically Low Water” in This River

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Credit: alexander-schimmeck-unsplash

‘Historically low water’ in the Mackenzie River forces northern cargo on 4,000 km detour, states a CBC news source.

Mackenzie River

Cargo that normally travels the Mackenzie River will instead be trucked north.

Low water on the Mackenzie River is forcing major changes to how the annual resupply of fuel and cargo reaches some northern communities this summer.

Instead of barging fuel and cargo down the Mackenzie River, the N.W.T.’s Marine Transportation Services will ship cargo overland and up the Dempster Highway, before delivery to communities by barge — a 4,000-kilometre detour.

Meanwhile, fuel destined for northern communities will take an even longer route around Alaska.

It’s all because of low water levels at the ramparts, near Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., where the river narrows from nearly two kilometres wide to just over 100 metres.

“This really is historically low water,” said Tracy St-Denis, assistant deputy minister for programs and services with the N.W.T.’s department of Infrastructure. “It’s been a very hot, dry summer.”

Cargo destined for Inuvik will arrive by truck. Cargo heading to Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok, Kugluktuk and Fort Good Hope will move on from there by barge.

As it did in 2022, fuel destined for Inuvik, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk will be delivered via a tanker travelling the 5,000 kilometre shipping route from Cherry Point, Wash., via the B.C. coast and around Alaska to Tuktoyaktuk. Fuel from the same tanker may also be barged up the Mackenzie River to Fort Good Hope.

Small amounts of gasoline may also travel up the Dempster by road for barging to Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk.

St. Denis said her department had already arranged to bring fuel in “over the top” in order to ensure prompt delivery.

“What we’re trying to do is just make sure that we mitigate risks and we ensure that the … essential cargo and the fuel gets to the communities this summer,” St. Denis said.

The Mackenzie River from Hay River to Inuvik covers roughly 1,600 kilometres. Both alternate routes will add hundreds of kilometres in distance that must be traveled.

No extra charge for customers

St. Denis said she hoped customers wouldn’t notice the drastic changes underway.

“From a customer’s perspective, we’re hoping that it’s seamless and in fact there actually is no difference.”

Infrastructure department spokesperson Darren Campbell said no extra costs associated with the unusual cargo season will be passed on to customers.

In a news release, Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie said it was a priority of the Marine Transportation Service to “do all it can so residents and businesses that rely on its services for essential freight and fuel get these supplies in a cost-effective manner and without delay.”

The route change means people shipping cargo will have to get materials to Hay River earlier than they might have planned. The final acceptance date for Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk has been moved from July 30 to July 21. Other dates will be posted online when finalized.

Cargo will travel as usual to Tulita, Norman Wells and Łútselk’e. Find the latest cargo acceptance dates here.

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Source: CBC