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Tundra reminders for the upcoming winter season

It’s that time of year again. When we wish for cold and snow and images of tuckers, rolligons and water buffalos dance in our heads. Well, maybe not, but the ice road and winter off-road travel season is upon us and I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone of a few details so that this very busy season can proceed smoothly.

Our general modus operandi for off-road travel and ice road construction requests is as follows:

1.       The DMLW North Slope Team monitors snow depth and soil temperature conditions starting in the end of October/beginning of November. We send out weekly Status Reports to this Listserv to keep everyone updated.

2.      Prepacking requests are emailed to our team closer to when prepacking activities would like to begin (we tend to like requests that appear a week to a few days ahead of time).

a.       The requests should include:

1.       snow observations in the area (this could include photos and snow depths at the requested area),

2.      methods and vehicles that will be employed (summer approved vehicles only),

3.       maps (if we don’t already have them) and

4.      the general timeline.

b.      If prepacking activities allow a route to meet opening standards, we may allow standard ice road construction methods to commence for that particular route (essentially the route has met our opening criteria). Again, a request to start standard construction is required and a site visit from one of our team members may be necessary. However, if the permittee can sufficiently document that there is enough snow within the ice road route and thermistors indicate that soil temperature criteria has been met, we may approve the standard construction without a site visit.

3.       As areas meet tundra opening criteria (Coastal Areas: 6” snow, -5C at 30cm; Foothills: 9” snow, -5C at 30cm) our team sends out Opening Reports to the Listserv and updates the online Arctic Transportation Network Tundra Travel Map (http://www.arctic-transportation.org/map-xml.php).

4.      Requests for standard construction usually come in after an area opens for general winter off-road travel and are approved by our office via email.

A few other things to keep in mind:

1.       You must have a valid off-road travel or ice road permit when traveling off any graveled road on the North Slope.

2.      Snow machine travel is generally approved once we make the determination (based on snow cover). We will send out “Sno-Go” letters when this occurs. These letters explain that we do not need to receive individual requests for snow machine use; snow machines can be used as needed with the approval of the environmental personnel (HSE) of the permitted company.

3.       All off-road travel (aside from snow machine use) must be approved by our office in writing. Send all requests to all members of our team to ensure the request is evaluated and approved in a timely manner. Our contact information is as follows:

·         Melissa Head- melissa.head@alaska.gov (907-451-2719)

·         Sean Willison- sean.willison@alaska.gov (907-451-2724)

·         Brian Jackson- brian.jackson@alaska.gov (907-451-2732)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us anytime. We are also happy to conduct site visits while we are on the North Slope. Either contact us at the Northern Regional Office (contact information above) or you can call us while we are based in Deadhorse at 907-659-2830 (office) or 907-448-3540 (mobile).

Keep an eye out for our reports and updates to the tundra travel map throughout the season. Our first scheduled visit to the slope is the week of November 5.

Kind Regards,

The DNR/DMLW North Slope Team

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