At 12:00 p.m. on May 10 the Alaska Department of Natural Resources closed the upper foothills area to tundra travel.
“Snow pack in the Upper Foothills Tundra Opening Area has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer adequate for general off-road travel,” DNR said.
All off-road travel currently in progress must be completed by 12:00 p.m. on Sunday May 13. However, because the weather remains cool and snow cover may be adequate for travel in some areas, DNR will consider allowing travel extensions on a case-by-case basis. Extensions require approval from the Division of Mining, Land and Water.
With the closure of the upper foothills, all state tundra travel areas are now closed for off-road use for the 2006-2007 winter season. The coastal areas closed on April 26 and the lower foothills closed on May 4.
However, cold weather is enabling the continued use of ice roads — companies are still conducting some operations in snow pack close to these roads, DNR’s Gary Schultz told Petroleum News May 10.
“Ice roads are still in pretty good shape in the coastal areas,” Schultz said.
And, with companies using low-impact, all-terrain vehicles to start ice-road construction early in the winter, low winter temperatures on the North Slope have enabled a relatively long ice-road season, Schultz said. On the other hand, exceptionally high winds at times during the winter disrupted some work.
But an abnormally low snow cover delayed the start of off-road tundra travel.
“It was a very thin snow year,” Schultz said.
And, because a warm spell at the end of April also caused DNR to close coastal tundra travel in the coastal areas at that time, the off-road travel season for operations such as seismic surveys has been relatively short this year.