Gwich'in Land and Water Board rejects bid to block wind farm on reindeer reserve

·2 min read

A request by the Nihtat Gwich'in Council to prevent a wind farm project on a reindeer grazing land reserve near Inuvik, N.W.T., has been rejected.

In a decision by the The Gwich'in Land and Water Board, released late this week, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation was ruled as eligible to receive a land use permit.

Earlier this year, the Nihtat Gwich'in Council fought to block the power corporation's plan to build a 3.5-megawatt wind turbine at High Point, about 12 kilometres east of Inuvik and north of the Dempster Highway.

On Jan. 9, the council made a request to the Gwich'in Land and Water Board to rule that the power corporation has failed to establish a lawful right to occupy land in order to be eligible to receive a permit. The leaders on council said placing wind turbine project there would contravene their land agreement.

The council said earlier this year that it believes the government can't legally build on the land since there is a land withdrawal — existing rights that are grandfathered and protect the land from development and other activities — according to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

The power corporation had initially put in an application in October 2018 for a permit to build and operate the wind farm, along with an all-season access road and other associated utilities. It also applied for a water licence to be used during the construction phase, which was not at issue in the request.

Submitted by Jozef Carnogursky
Submitted by Jozef Carnogursky

In 2018, the territorial and federal governments invested $40 million into Inuvik's wind turbine project, hoping to have it completed by fall 2020.

The power corporation says the project promises to "deliver renewable energy generation, significant fossil fuel displacement and improve rate stability for our 25 thermal zone communities," according to reasons for decision ruling documents.

The 50-metre-by-50-metre parcel reserved for the wind turbine is on territorial lands, the documents say, while the proposed road and transmission line right of way crosses both territorial and commissioner's land.

The reindeer grazing reserve, where the entire project sits, was established in December 1933 by a federal order-in-council.

According to the documents, it's a 17,094-square-kilometre tract of land east of the Mackenzie Delta, originally designated for a herd of 3,000 domestic reindeer, imported from Alaska, to improve food security and establish sovereignty in the western Arctic. All types of hunting, aside from trapping, were banned there.