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The Port of Churchill, which was closed by Omnitrax last year, was Canada’s only rail-accessible deepwater port on Arctic waters. (CBC) The promise of a longer shipping season for the now-closed port in Churchill has policy makers and potential investors speaking optimistically about the opportunities climate change might create for the northern Manitoba town in future.

As sea ice melts and the water on Hudson Bay clears, there are proposals to reopen the port.

But at the same time, the land underneath the railway that feeds the port, a line already damaged by spring flooding, will become less stable as permafrost melts.

"It is a paradox, of sorts," said Danny Blair, a professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg and researcher with the Prairie Climate Centre.

When spring flooding washed out sections of the Hudson Bay Railway line, it cut the only land link to Churchill, a community roughly 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg, which was already struggling after the closure of the port last year. This section of the Hudson Bay Railway is just one of several areas between Gillam and Churchill that are impassable after flooding. (Omnitrax) Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said any redevelopment plan for the railway needs to include the port, as the two are inextricably linked.

"We need to begin to understand better what the future of that port is. That relates to the discussion around rail and other discussions around a potential road link as well."

Pallister said the Port of Churchill is Canada’s only inland deep-sea port and a part of the mid-continental trade corridor.

"The port has intrinsic advantages. With climate change, the port will have a broader season, potentially, than it’s had." Advantages for port, challenges for railway The warming climate has already added a month to the shipping season in Hudson Bay compared to […]

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