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Canada's Mackenzie River floods with debris

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

High water levels and debris from flooding in Canada's southern Yukon and Northwest Territories are now reaching parts of the Sahtu region near the Mackenzie Delta, en route to the Arctic Ocean.

Officials say the high water is expected to arrive at the Mackenzie Delta in four to six days.

There have been reports of logs and sometimes whole trees pulled up from their roots floating down the Mackenzie River after being swept in from the Liard River. But the debris isn't all just driftwood.

Ron Doctor in Tulita says he saw a house float by.

“I thought this couldn't be a log,” he said. “I just happened to have my binoculars with me. I looked at it and it was a building -- the top half of a building -- was floating down the river.”

Doctor said the structure looked like a survival cabin made of wood.

Three communities in Yukon, B.C. and the Northwest Territories along the Liard River were flooded in the past week.

Watson Lake, Yukon, sheltered evacuees from Upper Liard, Yukon, and Lower Post, B.C., as well as thousands of stranded motorists when washouts closed the Alaska Highway.

The community’s mayor, Richard Durocher, said the town did a great job hosting the extra people.

“One of the greatest surprises, and it was a nice surprise, is how well this community played together,” he said. “We had people from every area coming in and offering assistance in anything they could do to help, and it turned into a great, great thing.

“If I send any message out there, it's ’Good job, Watson Lake.’ It's great to see something positive come out of this community."

Durocher said another concern is when Nahanni Range Road, which provides access to North American Tungsten’s Cantung Mine, will re-open. The mine is a major economic driver for the town.

The Yukon Department of Highways and Public Works said Friday repairs to the three washouts on that road will likely take two weeks.

Shari Borgford, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's director of strategic investments in Yukon, said it's too early to say what the cost of repairing flood damage will be.

"Once the water's receded we can go in and determine what the process is to make that assessment."

Borgford said the department's regional director is on the ground at the flood site, and they will work with other levels of government to determine next steps in the clean-up process.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.