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'People are worried': Saskatchewan's oldest settlement is now cut off from fuel and supply trucks

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Officials in Cumberland House say conditions on the only highway into the community have worsened, and trucks are unable to bring food and supplies into the remote village.

Saskatchewan Highway 123, the only road in and out of the province’s oldest settlement, has gotten so bad this year that locals say they’re often forced to go through the ditch to avoid getting stuck in the mud.

Community members brought the issue to CTV News on Monday, urging the province to invest in their highway and fix what has been a perennial problem for residents of Cumberland House.

Now, Deputy Mayor Veronica Favel says local stores are hiring vehicles to meet supply trucks at the end of the paved portion of the highway.

“[The] Northern Store and Chief Island community store are now hiring half-ton vehicles to retrieve food supply at the beginning of the grid road,” Veronica Favel told CTV News in a message on Thursday.

“They tried coming through with the semi yesterday and was not able to pass,” she said.

Missy Budd, the assistant manager at the Chief Island Store, says she’s been driving to Nipawin with other staff members in their personal vehicles to restock.

“We’re doing what we can, but there are other things we just can’t get — like our gas can’t come in.”

Budd said people haven’t been able to fill their tank at Chief Island for two days.

“People are worried,” she said.

“It’s a really big risk for us, especially like, say there’s an accident and our EMT can’t get out.”

The assistant manager at the Chief Island Store said Highway 123 is so bad they've had to take personal vehicles to go buy supplies in Nipawin. (Source: Facebook / Chief Island Store)

In a statement to CTV News on Monday, the Ministry of Highways acknowledged it’s been a “challenging spring thaw” for residents of Cumberland House.

The ministry said it plans to spend about $3.3 million to improve Highway 123 this summer, and that it’s working with trucking companies to ensure food, fuel and other key supplies can reach the community.

According to Budd, the Ministry of Highways doesn’t seem to have come up with a workaround to get fuel to Cumberland House yet.

It has managed to dump 15 truck loads of fresh gravel, though.

Budd says it’s the usual “Band-Aid solution” they see from the provincial government.

“They just put more gravel, patch it a little and then it’s left alone until the next disaster happens,” she said.

Cumberland House is approximately 450 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

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