Low fuel in Fort McPherson, but food supplies replenished, as Dempster Hwy closure continues

·2 min read
A section of the Dempster Highway. The highway, which connects Whitehorse to Inuvik, remains closed for emergency repairs at a bridge near Eagle Plains, Yukon. (Avery Zingel/CBC - image credit)
A section of the Dempster Highway. The highway, which connects Whitehorse to Inuvik, remains closed for emergency repairs at a bridge near Eagle Plains, Yukon. (Avery Zingel/CBC - image credit)

Fresh produce arrived in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., Thursday, despite an unexpected road closure that's stopped deliveries of food and other goods from Whitehorse to the N.W.T.'s Beaufort-Delta region.

Traffic along the Dempster Highway came to a standstill last Sunday, Sept. 4, after a truck with equipment on the back struck the Eagle River Bridge near Eagle Plains, Yukon, hard enough to cause structural damage.

The closure has raised concerns in some northern N.W.T. communities about food and fuel running low.

On Thursday morning, Fort McPherson's Northern Store gas station was out of regular gas, according to manager Shane Sterrett, who also said food was running low. He said people in town were filling jerry cans.

Sterrett's gas station is one of two in the community of about 700. The other, run by Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., said Thursday it had fuel but wasn't sure how long supplies would last.

Brent Smith, a spokesperson for The North West Company, said by email that a plane arrived in Inuvik Wednesday night carrying perishables from Whitehorse that were set for delivery to Fort McPherson and the other communities accessible by road from Inuvik, like Tsiigehtchic.

A regularly scheduled fuel shipment into Fort McPherson was planned for last week, but was also unable to be delivered due to the bridge closure. Smith said fuel will be delivered as soon as possible, which he hopes will be early next week.

Smith said the company has no plans to raise prices. He said the company is currently communicating with Nutrition North about applying air freight subsidies for food that has to be flown in.

If the road closure extends into next week, Smith said additional contingency plans will be activated to replenish dry goods.

On Tuesday, the Yukon government said in a Facebook post the closure of the Dempster Highway, which sits south of the N.W.T. border, would last at least three more days as crews work to repair the Eagle River Bridge.

In an email to CBC Thursday, Brittany Cross, a spokesperson for Yukon's Department of Highways and Public Works, said the territory expects to be able to give an update over the weekend.

"We're working to get the bridge repaired and safely reopened as quickly as we can," Cross wrote.

The N.W.T. government posted to Facebook Friday that an update on timelines for reopening would be provided at 5 p.m. Saturday.

That post noted an engineering review is underway to determine how much weight the bridge will be able to hold.