Flying in fuel
Hawker makes 43 trips with diesel fuel

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Kugaaruk ( May 29/00) - The reasons may have been many, but the result was that a First Air Hawker had to make 43 trips in and out of Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay) with its belly full of diesel fuel.

At a cost of $168,933, that's a lot of money for a Nunavut territorial government whose budget never seems to go far enough.

But, Brent Boddy, the regional superintendent of the Department of Public Works in the Kitikmeot region, said the situation couldn't be helped.

"We brought in 224,975 litres of diesel fuel," said Boddy, from his office in Cambridge Bay.

"We did that for two reasons," he said. "One was the capacity issue. We don't have enough room in the tank in Kugaaruk to store all the P50 (that the community needs)."

More houses, more vehicles requiring diesel fuel and an escalation in construction all taxed the hamlet's supply. To further complicate the matter, the hamlet was shorted nearly 100,000 litres of the fuel during their sealift resupply last September.

"Normally we order fuel in May and we have to estimate the consumption (for the year). Last year, the consumption rate was higher than we estimated," said Boddy.

"That's something we try to avoid, but if we have to ship fuel back we have to pay quite high costs," he said.

While the community hadn't quite depleted their supply of diesel fuel when the air resupply began, Boddy said the decision to fly it in coincided with the regularly scheduled resupply trip of gasoline and jet fuel.

With one year left to go in their contract with the Coast Guard for delivery of diesel fuel by ship, the hamlet is forced to fly in the other two fuels because the Coast Guard will only ship in diesel fuel.

When the contract ends, Boddy said they hope to be able to negotiate a new deal with a new carrier, which will allow them to ship in all three types of fuel. This, he said, would help to prevent future shortages and would allow the hamlet to expand their tank farm and save money on resupply.

Kugaaruk's senior administrative officer Quinn Taggart said the Kitikmeot's poor weather helped deplete their diesel fuel faster than usual.

"We had a really cold summer last year and a really cold winter," said Taggart.

"Over the last fiscal year, our average temperature was minus 12, minus 13 degrees Celsius. With the wind, it was around minus 22, minus 24 Celsius for the year," he said.

Running low by the time resupply started on May 8, Taggart said they knew without a doubt by February that more diesel would have to be flown in.

"We were hoping things would warm up quick enough that we could survive until sealift," said Taggart.

But, the weather being what it is in the Arctic, the community and the government had to resort to Plan B.

Boddy said he hoped to be able to avoid a similar and equally costly situation in the future, but he was unable to offer any guarantees or promises.

"No one likes to bring things in by more expensive modes, but that's one of the challenges we face," he said, adding they hoped to top the tank up to its full capacity (381,000 litres) this September.

"Other than filling the tank full, there's not a heck of a lot we can do. We hope there's a nice, warm winter, but if not, and if there are other unforeseen usages, we'll be doing this again," said Boddy.

He further added that the hamlet would not see an increase in the price of their diesel fuel because of the air resupply and he said the hamlet's pending road and bridge construction project - if it goes ahead -- had been accounted for in the recent fill-up.