Residents of Wollaston Lake in northern Saskatchewan are praying for some colder temperatures.
During the winter months the community relies on an ice road, but due to some warmer-than-normal temperatures this winter, ice on the lake is not nearly thick enough for traffic to safely cross.
“We have guys out there checking and twice we’ve sent our crew out for an ice measurement but it’s not where we want it to be,” said Anne Robillard, CEO of the Hatchet Lake Development Limited Partnership.
She said it seems very likely they will get a late start to construction.
The only way to safely get supplies into the community is by plane, but there are some people choosing not to wait.
“They do bring their half-tons across the frozen lake right now but we always note that they enter at their own risk,” said Robillard.
For years the community leaders have been petitioning the provincial government to get an all-weather road built. The death of a teacher on the road in 2010 helped raise awareness for the project, but in the end the challenge has always come down to cost.
The projected cost of the 100 kilometre road would be over $100 million.
Robillard, along with Chief Bart Tsannie have recently sent letters to the provincial and federal governments requesting support.
“We’re not sitting at home anymore and hoping,” said Robillard.
The NDP is voicing their support, calling for the Sask. Party to take action.
Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette said the community has twice been promised an all-weather road by the Sask. Party only to be let down.
“It was announced in 2008 and then the by-election happened and it was like the announcement never happened,” he said.
Vermette said prior to the Sask. Party forming government in 2007, the NDP government had committed funds for the project. Vermette now wonders where that money went.
“Right now there are no plans to build an all-weather road to Wollaston Lake,” said Doug Wakabayashi with the Ministry of Highways.
That being said, Wakabayashi remained confident that they could get an access road into Wollaston Lake this winter. He said there are a few tricks crews can do to speed up ice formation including flooding the road by drilling holes in the ice.
“At this point we are behind but between being able to get some equipment on the ice and if we do get a run of cold weather, things could change pretty quickly,” said Wakabayashi.
When asked to respond to the NDP, Wakabayashi did not disagree that promises had been broken.
“There were announcements made by the government regarding an all-weather road to Wollaston Lake. I think it’s no secret though that the position of the government is different than what it once was. The fact is there are significant demands for infrastructure all across the province,” said Wakabayashi.
The provincial government manages over 26,000 km. of provincial highways.
Wakabayashi said there has been talk of a P3 partnership but no formal proposal has been submitted.