Posted on September 25, 2023
The NWT government says federal counterparts have agreed to fund at least $3 million in emergency Hay River harbour dredging work.
Dredging of the harbour hasn’t happened on any significant scale for decades, largely as a result of arguments over which level of government should pay.
But the build-up of sediment, not helped by this year’s extraordinarily low water, has reached a point where the territory says an emergency is occurring and safe navigation of the harbour is being jeopardized.
Work to dredge the harbour outlet into Great Slave Lake and three fingers of the Hay River’s East Channel is ongoing, and is now expected to last into October following a delay related to the town’s month-long evacuation.
In a statement to Cabin Radio, the NWT’s Department of Infrastructure said Ottawa was now paying for at least some of the work, though the cost significantly outstrips the funding commitment received to date.
“The GNWT has received $3 million in funding support for this work from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and is appreciative of the support it’s received from the Government of Canada,” the department stated.
At the same time, the department noted that the contract for the work – being carried out by Rowe’s Construction, which the territory said won a public bidding process – is worth “approximately $7 million.” That doesn’t include some costs like project design and regulatory work.
The territory is being hit from all sides by this year’s drought and its manifestations: low water and wildfire.
$100 million or more will be spent on fires and their consequences, five times the budget set aside. Power plants are burning much more expensive diesel than is usually the case because hydro is underpowered, not to mention a six-month shutdown of the Taltson hydro plant for scheduled renovations. Some freight may need to be flown into communities because barge shipments couldn’t run, and now there are emergency dredging costs to meet.
Not all of the dredging can now be completed this year, the department stated, and the remainder will be finished off in the summer of 2024.
“Once restoration of the harbour is complete, an ongoing dredging program is needed to maintain the navigation channel,” the department concluded – but who might fund that program remains unclear.
The territory said it had applied under Transport Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, which applies to waterways as well as coasts, “to fund a multi-year project to fully restore navigability of the harbour and channel.”