A landlocked barge was removed on July 9 from Ndula Island – also known as Island A – in the Hay River. Marine Transportation Services has so far removed two landlocked barges. Three more are to be removed from the island, which is part of the Hay River Reserve.
Photo by Aaron Tambour, K’atlodeeche First Nation

A project has begun to remove five landlocked barges from the Hay River’s Ndula Island, also known as Island A.

The first barge was removed on June 17 and another on July 9.

Ndula Island is part of the Hay River Reserve, and the barges are being taken off the island by Marine Transportation Services (MTS) under an agreement with K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN).

“With the high water, MTS has managed to remove two of the barges from Ndula and hopes to be able to remove the other three within the week, if high water levels continue,” said Peter Redvers, the lead for negotiations and consultation with KFN, in a July 10 email to The Hub.

Redvers said the first barge was easily removed from the island, while the second barge took a while longer and resulted in two broken ropes before finally moving.

MTS is using a tugboat to drag the barges off the island, which is near the Old Village on the reserve.

“The last three, furthest downriver, will be more difficult given that they are most landlocked,” noted Redvers.

The removal of the barges had been scheduled for late winter/early spring, but was delayed by staff shortages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The barges have been out of service for many years.

According to information provided in March by a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, the barges will be scrapped once removed.

When the Hay River Reserve was created in 1974, the since defunct Northern Transportation Company Ltd. got a permit from the federal government to overwinter barges by tying them to the island.

Over the years, the channel narrowed with sedimentation and the barges became landlocked.

The GNWT – through Marine Transportation Services – now holds the permit to tie barges to the island.

KFN raised concerns over a year ago with MTS about the barges basically being abandoned on reserve land, and the two sides began working on a plan to remove them.

The delayed work earlier this year would have involved constructing an access road to allow equipment into the area to remove the barges while there was still snow on the ground and the river was frozen.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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