Delayed Liard River bridge study to be done by end of 2021

Vehicles aboard the MV Lafferty ferry to Fort Simpson on July 31, 2020
Vehicles aboard the MV Lafferty ferry to Fort Simpson on July 31, 2020. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

A study examining the feasibility of a bridge over the Liard River to and from Fort Simpson has been delayed until later this year.

Creating a bridge would connect the community to the broader NWT highway system year-round instead of waiting for an ice road to freeze in the winter or the MV Lafferty ferry in the summer.

According to documentation from this year’s NWT Association of Communities annual meeting, the study was initially set to be complete by the end of March this year.

However, the NWT’s Department of Infrastructure now says the study will be completed “closer to the end of 2021” because of delays in acquiring data for the local terrain.



“This initial study will indicate the feasibility of the proposed project from a technical, economic, social and environmental perspective,” a spokesperson for the department said.

“It is expected that the study will result in the identification, analysis and concept of up to three suitable bridge crossing locations.”

Fort Simpson’s mayor, Sean Whelly, said the project is “really important for the long-term future of Fort Simpson and the whole Mackenzie Valley.”

“The quicker that gets done, the better it is,” Whelly said. “As long as it’s moving ahead, I think people are satisfied to let the planning processes work themselves out.”



He added the study is crucial so funding can be sought and secured.

“It does affect the economy of this town in major ways,” the mayor said. “This would really be a key part in seeing Fort Simpson become a more vibrant community over the next 20 years.”

Once the study is complete, the territorial government will use the findings to “prepare a business case and funding application to conduct further engineering assessments.”

The MV Lafferty ferry typically operates from mid-May until early November, connecting Fort Simpson’s island to highways that lead to the south or to Yellowknife.

Last year, the ferry got stuck in the fast-freezing river when staff were trying to move it ashore for the season.

Three staff members were safely rescued. The ferry sustained minor damage to its steering pump.