The Town of Hay River reported that the main route into Vale Island will be accessible starting Wednesday evening.

The latest advisory states “Highway 2 to Vale Island in Hay River will be closed due to unstable road conditions at 6 p.m.today, May 11, 2022 until further notice.”

Earlier in the day, the municipality said the GNWT Department of Infrastructure would be monitoring the integrity of the road as one of the territorial government’s major concerns.

During the public information meeting on Tuesday evening, the Town reported there were 60 people still on the island who had not evacuated.

An evacuation order had been issued by the municipality on May 7 at 2 a.m.

However, the Town reported that the Hay River Merlyn Carter Airport, which is located on Vale Island, will remain operational.

Department spokesperson Darren Campbell said in response to a series of questions this week that Infrastructure has a key role in the territorial government’s flood response that includes overseeing the maintenance and operations of public infrastructure and systems, highways, bridges, the airport and the port terminal.

The department participates in local and territorial Emergency Measures Organization meetings.

Highways

Highway 2, or the Mackenzie Highway, is the main thoroughfare into the town that stretches into Vale Island and on through to the West Point First Nation.

Campbell said reviewing and overseeing the operations of the highway has been a major task since the beginning of the flood season.

“In the case of an emergency, the GNWT continues to maintain the highways in good condition in the event of an evacuation by road,” explained Campbell.

“The challenges highway staff have faced are the heavy snow, rain and freezing rain [which have] impacted all highways in the South Slave region – resulting in washouts and slippery driving conditions.”

Campbell said many Infrastructure workers who live in Hay River and the South Slave have personal ties to their neighbours and fellow residents and are heavily invested in ensuring that roads are safe to travel.

“That is why GNWT highway crews are continuously monitoring road conditions, steaming culverts to ensure drainage is not blocked, pushing ice from highways and applying salt and sand on the highways so they are safe for travellers,” he said.

Where road closures are necessary, staff are also manning barricades.

Hay River Merlyn Carter Airport

Campbell said the department has deemed the airport safe for operations.

“There is no water or ice on the runway,” he said.

“The edge lights at the runway are disconnected as a precaution with a Notice to Airmen in place. This should not impact regular day time travel, and should night time travel be required, flare pots would be available with prior notice.”

He referred NNSL Media to independent airlines that are operating out of the site for further comment.

Marine Transportation Services

The Marine Transportation Services (MTS) Hay Terminal is located on Vale Island and its employees were evacuated following the town’s evacuation order, on May 7 at 2 a.m.

“The health and safety of staff is a priority and staff are currently not working on site and have been sent home,” Campbell said. “Those who can work remotely are doing so.”

Campbell said MTS workers at the Hay River Terminal are not all GNWT employees as some are working directly for contractor Offshore Recruiting Services Inc. (ORSI). However, the territorial government and the employer are working closely together to provide housing and shelter to displaced workers.

Questions were provided to ORSI on May 11.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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