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Band wants road contract

Transportation shuts down access for a second time

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Trout Lake (Apr 19/02) - The chief of the Saamba K'e band says his community, unsatisfied with winter road service, wants to assume the contract to construct and maintain the 126-kilometre access route to the city.

Trout Lake residents re-opened their winter road in late March after it was officially closed for the season.

Department of Transportation officials then sent their contractors back, at the cost of a few thousand dollars, to close off the road once again last Tuesday, removing snow from the four creek crossings.

Fisheries officer Larry Dow, based in Hay River, said the creeks must be at least partially cleared to avoid damming the water, which could erode the banks.

Dow and Dan Quevillon, of the Indian Affairs and Northern Development office in Fort Simpson, are planning to meet with the band over this issue.

Deneron said the band members used a CAT, a loader and shovels to return the road to passable condition.

Their motivation was to transport lumber, some stoves and other late arriving materials into the community, he noted. Several family vehicles also required passage, he added.

Les Shaw, area superintendent of transportation, noted that the Trout Lake winter road was already extended to March 23 this year, an extra eight days.

"We only have money to keep these roads for a certain period of time," said Shaw.

Deneron said Trout Lake residents customarily continue to use the winter road even after it's officially closed for the season in mid-March.

He argues that the department took excessive measures this year, by erecting barricades at each of the four creeks.

"I don't know what the hell they're trying to prove," he said. "When it's closed the public don't use it, just us ... we've never heard of nobody getting stuck or nothing."

Shaw argued that if anybody did get hurt on the winter road after its official closure, liability would be a definite issue.

"When we close those roads, people aren't insured. What if somebody rolls their vehicle or something and gets hurt ... when they go out and do something like that they basically become liable," Shaw said. "This is a definite no-no."

Seeking the contract

Deneron complained that the department didn't complete the winter road until January 13.

"They said there's too much snow and overflow," he said, adding that band members voluntarily groomed more than 30 kilometres from their end to hasten the process. Shaw said Trout Lake's southerly location makes the weather somewhat warmer and unpredictable.

Nogha Enterprises, the Liidlii Kue's business arm, and Rowe's Construction hold the contract to build the winter road, but it expires in October. Deneron, who hopes to meet with department officials soon, said his band is interested in leasing more heavy equipment to take over the contract for themselves.

Shaw said the Trout Lake band had never previously expressed interest in assuming the contract. He did note that Trout Lake, a community of fewer than 70 people, has been offered an all-weather road but they have always declined.