[Winnipeg Man., February 6, 2024] A state of emergency has been declared by the Southeast Resource Development Council due to the absence of winter road access to the First Nations of Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, and Poplar River as of February 6, 2024.
The lack of winter road access will impact the transportation of essential supplies, including building materials, food, construction equipment, and fuel into these remote communities. Though not listed above, Berens River freight also requires the winter road to cross from the south side to the north side as they do not have a bridge.
Manitoba winter roads serve 30,000 Manitobans in 17 communities, according to the province.
The current situation raises concerns about a potential shorter winter road season compared to 2023, where all roads were open by February 6 and closed by April 14. Unprecedented high temperatures in January and February, not witnessed in Manitoba for 150 years, prompt questions about the impact of climate change on the future of winter roads.
"Winter roads connect us to essential supplies,” says Chief Roddy Owens of Pauingassi First Nation. “Places like the Northern Store rely on winter roads for the necessary stock of food and household items for our remote community where alternatives are limited. When we see higher temperatures begin to shorten that window, we need to look to the government and ask how they will work with us to better prepare for the future.
In this state of emergency, the affected communities are urgently requesting assistance from the province of Manitoba and Indigenous Services Canada to work on developing a contingency plan should warm weather persist.
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