A new bridge constructed at North Caribou Lake First Nation will eliminate the community’s reliance on winter roads and provide year-round access.
The span, which crosses the Weagamou Lake narrows, connects the community to Pickle Lake via the Northern Ontario Resource Trail (NORT).
Launched 12 years ago under the winter alignment process, the project cost $5.1 million and was funded by the federal government.
“Our Elders have asked for the Wa-Pik-Che-Wanoog bridge for years because they have witnessed the effects of climate change in our territory and knew how it would influence life in our community. The winter roads can be dangerous, and two pieces of heavy equipment have gone through the ice while trying to maintain them,” said Chief Dinah Kanate in a release.
“I am pleased this bridge is finally open, and it is significant that the great-great-grandchildren of our ancestors who first walked these trails could participate in today’s ribbon-cutting.”
North Caribou Lake First Nation (Weagamow or Round Lake) is located approximately 900 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. Like many remote communities, it relies on an unstable winter road network as the primary transportation for vital supplies of food, fuel and other necessities of life.
“The completion of this project will end North Caribou Lake First Nation’s reliance on the unreliable unstable winter road network, and I congratulate Chief Kanate, council and everyone involved in this milestone project,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
“This bridge provides safer and easier access to the permanent road system, opening up vital transportation links that will help ease the high cost of living.”
Thirty-two of NAN’s 49 First Nations are remote and isolated, accessible only by air and seasonal roads. With a changing environment, commercial traffic on winter roads has been open for as few as 28 days in recent years, a significant reduction from 77 days a decade ago. This forces communities to rely on air delivery for supplies at significantly increased costs.