BETHEL (AP) -- The ice road that runs from Napakiak to Bethel along the Kuskokwim River is not officially open yet, but trucks and cars are using it anyway.
Steven Paul, coordinator for Napakiak Search and Rescue, has checked the thickness of the ice with a drill and said the road is safe. He marked a trail up from Napakiak toward Bethel by pasting orange reflective tape on trees alongside the river.
Paul has checked the thickness of the ice for several months. In early January, it measured 14 inches. He will continue to check the thickness and make reports directly to the villages and over the radio.
Kuskokwim Lighterage and Trucking is the entity officially responsible for maintaining the ice road that runs downriver from Bethel to Napakiak and upriver from Bethel to Tuluksak along the Kuskokwim River. In October, the company bid for, and won, a three-year contract on the road from Bethel.
KLT is required under the contract to determine if the ice is thick enough. It would like to see the ice between 18 and 24 inches.
KLT completed an aerial survey in a small plane two weeks ago to check where open water holes were on the river. Surveyors marked the areas on the map so they can be rechecked periodically.
''The worst holes seem to be in the same places consistently every year,'' Leary said.
His crew will check the ice with chain saws and an ice auger from Bethel to Tuluksak to determine if it is safe enough to mark.
Crews will then mark the ice road on both sides with reflectors attached to trees and orange stakes submerged in the ground.
KLT's contract states that the ice road must be at least 20 feet wide.
Leary is confident the road will be opened soon.
''We're getting there. Another week or so of nice cold weather, we'll be OK,'' he said.
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