Officials to assess mudslide report in Little Whale River

A damage assessment is expected to take place following a reported mudslide along Little Whale River, around Nunavik’s Hudson Bay coast.

It is not clear when the mudslide took place or where exactly it occurred along the river.

According to Umiujaq mayor Davidee Sappa, the village became aware of it earlier in the week after it was spotted by a group of people who flew over Little Whale River, which is located about 60 kilometres south of Umiujaq.

“A plane passing by in the north, going south; they saw the Little Whale River damaged,” Sappa said in a phone call.

“This week, there will be people going to see by helicopter; that’s how we’re going to get information.”

Eddie Qumaluk, a marine wildlife manager in Umiujaq, said heavy winds have made it difficult to fly to the river to assess any damage. As soon as it’s possible to go there, he’ll have more information to report.

In the meantime, Qumaluk has been searching for satellite images of the area to see the extent to which debris has spread around the coast. In one image, it appears that debris has formed along the basin of Little Whale River and has flowed north into Hudson Bay.

Qumaluk said that debris in that area could potentially have a negative impact on some of the wildlife. If it gets into a large area of the bay, it could potentially disrupt beluga breeding and feeding grounds.

An assessment will help determine an environmental impact, he said. That assessment will be done by Qumaluk and KRG.

“I don’t know how it’s going to affect the hunters over the next few years if a lot of debris went down the river to the bay,” Qumaluk.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen to all of the fish and the belugas.”

Kativik Regional Government is also getting involved, according to spokesperson Rocio Valencia, and will be meeting with the communities and the provincial transportation and public safety ministries.

“KRG through the Civil Security department is coordinating a meeting for Friday with the communities,” Valencia said.

“In the meantime, we are consolidating the information.”

Sophie Gauthier, a spokesperson for the provincial environment ministry, said the ministry is monitoring for drinking water issues and hazardous materials.

“According to the information obtained to date, there is no issue at this level,” Gauthier said in an email.

Joshua Kawapit, a spokesperson for the Whapmagoostui First Nation said they too would be planning a flyover when they get the chance.

This is not the first time a major mudslide has been reported in the southwest corner of Nunavik.

In April 2021, a mudslide dumped 45 million cubic metres of debris into the Great Whale River, approximately eight kilometres upstream from the neighbouring communities of Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui.

At the time, KRG reported it to be the second largest landslide in Quebec history.

Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News