THUNDER BAY – UPDATED – The Chief and Council have advised residents of Bearskin Lake to prepare for evacuation. People have been asked prepare with taking a small bag and get set to leave. The host community for the evacuees has not yet been announced.
Ice jams on the Severn River are backing up water and those rising waters are threatening the community of Bearskin Lake First Nation with flooding.
The Chief and Council have declared a state of emergency which allows needed government action and funds to help.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has issued the following statement as Bearskin Lake First Nation Chief Rodney McKay has declared a State of Emergency as rapidly rising water threatens the remote community:
“Water is rising quickly from a severe ice jam and several roads are now submerged across the community. Community members are cut off from the airport and vital infrastructure including the water treatment plant has been compromised. Without immediate action the ice jam will keep building and the water will keep rising. We are in constant communication with the community and provincial and federal ministries and have requested that a coordinated response be mobilized to attempt to clear the ice jam and prepare for a possible evacuation.”
Water is backing up from an ice jam at the White Sand Rapids along the Severn River, just downstream from the community. Plans are being developed to blast the ice jam with explosives. A precautionary evacuation plan is also being developed that will use helicopters to transport isolated community members.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler reports, “We will insist that all options to address the ice jam be considered. And whatever supports are required be made available to the community on an emergency basis.”
The Grand Chief has been on the phone with officials working to provide needed assistance.
The Grand Chief states, “The next call with the Provincial Emergencies Operation Centre (PEOC) is at 1:00 pm EST. I am also on the phone with Ministers Rickford and O’Regan to keep them informed of the situation in the community. They are working with their officials to help us develop a plan that will keep the community safe.”
Minister Greg Rickford states, “The Provincial Emergency Operations Centre is working with the community to respond. We have engaged technical experts and understand the urgency of the flooding situation on the ground. I will continue to be in contact with Grand Chief Fiddler and the Chief of Bearskin Lake, Rodney McKay. The community has my full support.”
Bearskin Lake First Nation is a remote community on Michikan Lake located approximately 450 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, accessible only by air and a seasonal winter road. The OjiCree community has a membership of approximately 1,000, with an on-reserve population of approximately 500.