A ceremony marked the official opening of the Katl’odeh Bridge on Aug. 4.
Located on Highway 5, east of Hay River and south of the Hay River Dene Reserve, the bridge spans the Hay River. It opened to traffic in November 2019 and was completed in October 2020, replacing the former Hay River to Pine Point Bridge.
However, because of COVID-19 public health restrictions, an official opening ceremony involving large gatherings could not be held until this month.
Several dignitaries marked the official opening with ceremonial drumming and a ribbon cutting. The Government of the Northwest Territories and Katl’odeechee First Nation jointly hosted the event.
The new bridge is 10 metres wide — exceeding the measurement of the older bridge, which was 7.2 metres in width. It has an open deck and is designed to withstand heavier vehicles, according to the Department of Infrastructure.
Diane Archie, minister of Infrastructure, said in a statement that the bridge aims to meet traffic demand over the coming decades and adds to the continued development of the NWT’s transportation system.
“As our territory evolves, our infrastructure must meet not only the current needs of our citizens but also the needs of future generations,” Archie said. “The Katl’odeh bridge is expected to last longer than 75 years.”
The money to complete the bridge came from a $14-million budget that entails a 75-to-25 per cent cost-sharing agreement between Infrastructure Canada’s Small Communities Fund and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
The project was part of an overall $60-million investment by the Government of Canada for 13 projects in the NWT in 2016.
Michael McLeod, member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, said the money shows that his government supports NWT’s transportation needs, including roads and bridges.
“I am pleased to celebrate the completion of the Katl’odeh Bridge,” McLeod said. “Our government recognizes the importance of improving infrastructure in the NWT to make transportation better, safer and more reliable in both communities and highway systems.”
KFN Chief April Martel said the opening of the bridge was important for Dene people in the area and noted the importance of using the traditional Dene Yati word Katl’odeh, which means “willow grass river.”
Other dignitaries present at Wednesday’s opening included Deh Cho MLA Ronald Bonnetrouge and Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson.