A barge system to reconnect the East and West Kimberley after record flooding severed the region in two in January will be operational “in the next few weeks” after further rains caused delays. In early February, plans for the barge system — which would see three “punt-type” barges operating for around four months while a temporary floodway crossing was built — were announced and touted to be operation in early March. It came after the Fitzroy Crossing bridge — a crucial part of the Great Northern Highway transport route and the main arterial route connecting the west and east Kimberley — partially collapsed in January’s devastating floods. However, recent rains and trouble agreeing on a location for moorings for the system have caused delays, with a Main Roads spokesperson saying the system would now be operational “in coming weeks”, but not confirming a hard date. “Main Roads is working as fast as we can to deliver a new ‘ferry’ service to get pedestrians across the Fitzroy River, however heavy rain and rising river levels continue to hamper the efforts of crews on the ground,” the spokesperson said. “Access roads and a landing area on the eastern side of the river are now complete and works are underway on the access road and landing area on the western side. “The Fitzroy River is a Registered Aboriginal Site with many Cultural sites along its banks, and Main Roads has been working closely with the Bunuba Traditional Owners to identify appropriate locations to build barge infrastructure on the western side of the river. “Last week, Main Roads received approval on appropriate locations to build the barge infrastructure on the western side, and that work is now underway.” The spokesperson said it was hoped the low-level crossings and access roads would be completed by May, however, warned any timelines were dependent on future rainfall and river conditions. “Essential goods continue to be delivered into flood-affected areas by aircraft and barge to ensure that communities on the eastern side of the river have access to supplies,” they said. Residents are reminded not to enter the Fitzroy River which is fast flowing and dangerous.” It comes after pastoralists throughout the Kimberley raised concerns over the efficacy of the plan. Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association chief executive Mick Sheehy said he understood the barge system, once operational, would be upgraded to potentially take 2x40 foot trailers. But with mustering set to begin in April and the northern live cattle trade due to resume next month, Mr Sheehy said the system would not be adequate. “If we are faced with a barge crossing on the Great Northern Highway when we start the season it will be a disaster,” he said. “There is no way that breaking up trailers to cross a river by barge will work for transporting livestock.” KPCA chair and Yeeda Station manager Jak Andrews also expressed doubts, saying trailer height would likely prove a challenge. “I certainly hope that what we’re hearing is correct and it can handle livestock, but we’re yet to see if that’s correct or not,” he said.