Many Yellowknife and Dettah residents make regular use of the seasonal Ice Road that connects the two communities, but there is a bit more too it than one might think at first glance.
1) When was the Dettah Ice Road first opened/founded?
The GNWT’s earliest record of the Dettah ice road opening goes back to 1983. At the time, the Department of Public works and Highways was in charge of operating and maintaining the Dettah ice road. We are unable to confirm whether an ice road between Yellowknife and Dettah was built before 1983.
2) What kind of construction techniques are used to build the road?
Before construction starts, the Department of Infrastructure (INF) highway staff do ice testing. This involves:
Manual ice testing using an auger and an ice measuring device,
Electronic ice profiling using Ground Penetrating Radar, and;
Visual ice inspections to ensure satisfactory ice thickness and integrity before construction starts.
Once inspections and Ground Penetrating Radar confirm the minimum ice thickness required along the Dettah ice road alignment, construction starts. The GNWT currently uses pick-up trucks with attached plows to clear snow from the ice road alignment. Vehicle drags and typhoon flood pumps are also used – if necessary. The vehicle drags and flood pumps are used as required to increase ice thickness and smooth the ice road’s driving surface. Ground Penetrating Radar technology and regular visual inspections take place regularly throughout construction activities.
3) What criteria need to be met for the road to be officially open?
The opening of the Dettah ice road and any other NWT winter roads are always heavily dependent on weather and ice conditions. This year, warmer weather and increased snowfall did hinder natural ice growth and that impacted the start of construction. On the Dettah ice road alignment, a minimum of 35 centimetres of ice thickness is required to safely start clearing snow. INF maintenance staff do ice checks and profiling until this minimum thickness is met, then snow clearing and construction activities can start. When construction activities are complete, the Dettah ice road can officially open.
So far, there has never been a year since 1983 where the Dettah Ice Road could not be opened.
4) What is the average cost to build the road each year? Has it ever drastically changed?
The Dettah Ice Road is constructed using INF resources and equipment. The cost to construct varies from year to year depending on conditions and the average cost to construct is about $40,000.