Yukon News

Ross River bridge to be fully repaired

Ashley Joannou Wednesday January 11, 2017

Ian Stewart/Yukon News


Closed since 2013, the Ross River footbridge will be repaired with money from the federal and territorial governments.

Years after the community’s protests saved the Ross River footbridge from near certain destruction, the Second World War-era bridge will be stable enough to walk on once again.

The Yukon government announced Jan. 10 that it had secured the federal money needed to finish repairing the bridge that has been unusable since 2013.

“We want to listen to the communities about what’s important to them and they clearly made a statement that this is important to them,” said Community Services Minister John Streicker.

Ross River residents have used the bridge for decades to access camps and hunting grounds on the far side of the Pelly River. It’s the only thing that connects the two sides during freeze-up and break-up when the local ferry can’t run.

The second phase of repairs to the suspension bridge will cost about $3 million. The Government of Canada has promised to chip in up to $2.25 million and Yukon will contribute the remaining $750,000.

That’s good news for residents who worked hard to save the bridge from demolition.

“It’s extremely important to the community,” said Kitty Sperling, who ran the Friends of the Ross River Foot Bridge Facebook group. “Grouse hunting season is coming up in April and that’s how people get across the water without falling in.”

Sperling said the bridge also has historic and potential tourism value.

It was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1944 to carry an oil pipeline over the river and was later retrofitted as a footbridge.

“It’s the last structure that harkens back to those days,” she said.

When news broke that the bridge would be torn down, protesters camped out around the clock on the Pelly River ice to prevent the demolition.

The government eventually agreed to find a way to save it.

It hasn’t been cheap. The first phase of repairs to the bridge included stabilizing the north and south towers and cost $1.4 million, but the bridge still wasn’t safe enough to walk on.

The Yukon Party government of the time said it couldn’t finish the repairs until more federal money was secured.

The territory has known for a few months that the new funding had been approved, said Paul Moore, deputy minister of community services.

The final repairs will include new stairs, cables, anchors and decking.

Streicker was in Ross River this month to meet with the community and the Ross River Dena Council. When it was announced that the money was coming to finish the repairs, the community was supportive, he said.

If everything goes as planned, the hope is to have people walking on the bridge again by this summer, Striecker said.

The Yukon government is waiting for a letter from the First Nation officially confirming that it wants the project to go ahead. Then a tender will be sent out looking for a company to do the work.

Funding for both phases of the repairs has come from the federal government’s Building Canada Fund.

That means the Yukon is responsible for 25 per cent of the bill, while the federal government covers the rest. In all, the territory will have spent more than a million dollars on repairs to the bridge. Both Streicker and Sperling say it was money well spent.

There’s no word on how much it cost the Yukon to cancel the original plan to knock the bridge down. The Department of Community Services did not answer that question by deadline.

Contact Ashley Joannou at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Heiko Nyland wrote:
12:15am Tuesday January 24, 2017

Ross River is laughing. Make some work for someone. This was never built as a bridge. It carried the Canol pipeline across the Pelly river. Someone put some decking on it long ago to cross during freeze up and spring thaw. The pipeline was pulled out in the seventies I think. Why wasn’t the cable supports pulled too? Not any use, didn’t exist when the village site was occupied. But a good party area, maybe a place to abandon old wrecks and garbage. Ross River Dena wouldn’t put in 10 cents to fix it. Grouse hunting? Get real, grouse are everywhere. Let them nest. Somebody gotta learn to say no to spending my money on whimsical and irrelevant projects. The north canol hasn’t seen a grader past Twin Creeks in 3 years, no matter how many graders YTG parks up there. But those bridges sure look good!  And that walk bridge to nowhere? Tourists are gonna throng across it. Maybe make it a toll bridge.Hahahahaha

Ninni wrote:
11:48pm Friday January 20, 2017

Yes, housing seems to be more in need than this bridge!  Building a new one at much less cost or none at all better idea. There are many more infrastructure requirements that should be considered before this. ........and how many new homes can they have by doing so and boosting economy for businesses in watson lake, whitehorse and their community. Government should not have to provide EVERYTHING for this community. Mayo, whitehorse - they too need housing solved and residents would I’m sure scrap this ridiculous bridge over housing and very necessary requirements! 
Come on, let’s be realistic!!

Riptide wrote:
3:02pm Thursday January 19, 2017

So they spent 1.4 million stabilizing the bridge, and will now spend another 3 million repairing it. 4.4 million for a walking bridge. What a waste of money.

YukonMax wrote:
8:30pm Tuesday January 17, 2017

Why wasn’t there a two way deal? Why didn’t the government come half way and let Ross River figure out how to meet the other half? Nowadays “go fund me” and fund raising for a common cause brings people together. It makes them proud of being part of it, blood, sweat and tears.
It also shows that the government of the day “BELIEVES” in a people’s ability to be a full participant.  Yeah! Well! Whatever…

bill wrote:
2:53am Saturday January 14, 2017


you are right on the mark, with your comments on the mayo road bridge
time to put some money into that project, before someone is seriously hurt or killed

Bridge to Nowhere wrote:
3:51pm Friday January 13, 2017

From the article: “That’s good news for residents who worked hard to save the bridge from demolition.” Really? What did they do other than piss and moan and camp outside the bridge waiting for a hand out to fix it. If that is the definition of hard work in Ross River, then I wonder not that the same people are also waiting (“working hard”) for new housing as the one that was given to them is now in disrepair due to negligence. Ridiculous waste of money on an old piece of junk and ridiculous of the government to set a precedent that it will bend and cater to special interest groups if they just bitch and whine long enough.

@Yukoner. I couldn’t agree more with your letter.

It’s 2017, when are people going to start being accountable for their neighborhoods, their actions and their lives. Stop relying on government for everything.

AMAZING!!! wrote:
9:53am Friday January 13, 2017

@ Yukoner
you mean before you showed up?
Give me a break Bud! Haters gonna Hate hey!

Yukoner wrote:
10:07pm Thursday January 12, 2017

This is great to see money being spent on a bridge so that local first nations can access traditional hunting areas. The only question is how did they get to these traditional territories before the bridge?

Guncache wrote:
10:25am Thursday January 12, 2017

1.4 million already spent on it and putting 3 million more into it.  I would thinki they could have built a hell of a bridge for 3.4 million

drum wrote:
7:58pm Wednesday January 11, 2017

This is great - money for infrastructure from the Federal Government (taxpayers money)
The Bridge at Mile 2 on the Mayo Road is handlingl more and more traffic from north of the city including all the communities up to Dawson and going up the Dempster - it needs to be broadened and the roads on both sides expanded.  What are the plans for the safety of the people using this very old bridge that handles motor and heavy transport trucks every day.  Is Ottawa going to supply Federal money for this???????

Honeycomb wrote:
5:35pm Wednesday January 11, 2017

Why work on ‘repairing’ the bridge at all? Is this old piece of junk worth saving?

Take a picture, have it etched on a plaque next to river telling the story of the canol…maybe even make a replica model of the bridge as a statue…..then junk this old piece of garbage and install a new bridge for 1 tenth the price.

I suspect it’s like 24 Sussex, where the cost of refurbishing ends up being far more than a new bridge.

$3 million….well I guess it’s raining money these days. Industrial infrastructure, literally just a scaffold to hold a pipeline becomes ‘heritage’...what’s next in the future, can’t replace sewage pipes either?

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