Business as usual
Prices expected to remain stable during road closure

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 22/98) - Range Lake Extra Foods manager Jeremy Garton said last Thursday's closure of the Mackenzie River ice crossing has not sparked a run on food.

When it comes to shoppers, "we haven't noticed too much of a difference," he said. A spokesperson at Extra Foods downtown commented similarly.

"We were ready in advance," Garton said. "Prices (to the consumer) will not change."

Perishable goods, like milk and meat and greens, are being airlifted across the river and trucked to Yellowknife.

Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce executive director Cheryl Best said the situation has improved greatly over the last ten years.

"Stores usually stock up. There has been the odd year when milk and eggs disappear though," she said.

Best also said that in years gone by, when the ice bridge went out, food prices doubled, but that's not the case any more, she added.

The ice bridge closed at noon April 16 with 48 hours notice. Approaches were extremely rough with lots of surface water. The earliest ice bridge closure since 1980 was April 12 in 1996. The latest closure was April 25 in 1986 and 1992. The earliest ferry service start since 1980 was May 6 in 1981 and 1993. The latest start was May 22 in 1982 and 1986.

As for when the ferry service will be up and running, GNWT marine services acting director Les Shaw said there is usually a gap of about three weeks after the ice bridge is shut. Operations usually start in the second or third week of May but a milder winter could mean an earlier breakup.

Each year, Yellowknife-based private helicopter company Aero Arctic airlifts goods across the Mackenzie until the ferry is running. Frank O'Connor at Aero Arctic said so far they have lifted several cars over the past few days.

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