Weather hampers crossing

NNSL (DEC 20/96) - Workers at the ferry crossing in Fort Providence have their work cut out for them this winter, say transportation officials.

"Put it this way: we've moved as much ice in the last three weeks out of there as we have over the last five years," said Tony MacAlpine, marine services superintendent.

Warm weather and heavy ice floes are causing havoc not only with ferry crossing services and ice road building, but also with departmental budgets.

"You don't want to know how much this is costing us -- more than you and I make, that's for sure," said MacAlpine, without further elaboration.

He said about four extra jobs have been created at the ferry crossing because of the unusually frequent ice build-ups.

The Merv Hardie ferry can't cross the Mackenzie River without damaging its rudder and propellers when ice is in the river.

And while the ferry continues to experience delays, work on the ice road that replaces the ferry for the duration of the winter is about two weeks behind schedule.

But Art Barnes, superintendent of highway services for the North/South Slave Region is confident the three kilometre crossing will be ready early next year.

"We're working longer shifts and we might put an extra pump station in -- three rather than the usual two, because of the larger work area," said Barnes.

He explained that usually the crews concentrate on the 700 metre stretch in the middle of the crossing, but because the ice froze more smoothly this year, it's thinner and requires more flooding.

The good news is crews won't have to work on smoothing out the usual rubble, which historically is about three quarters of the job.

"The balmy -15 degree temperatures haven't been helping us much either," said Barnes.

Optimum ice-road building temperatures are between -25 and -35 degrees, he said.

If all goes well, barring any overflows and increases in temperature, the ice road should be ready for the big trucks by the second week in January, said Barns.