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Hay River to rebuild West Channel berm

Ice and water sits in a street in Hay River, N.W.T., during flooding in 2022.  (Kate Kyle/CBC - image credit)
Ice and water sits in a street in Hay River, N.W.T., during flooding in 2022. (Kate Kyle/CBC - image credit)

Earlier this week, the federal government announced more than $1.1 million in funding to help rebuild a berm that runs throughout Hay River's West Channel.

Glenn Smith, Hay River's senior administrative officer, said the funding will pay for upgrades to offer more protection to the area, after a flood in 2022 caused significant damage.

"We'll see enhancements throughout the entire berm system, in some cases moving it back a bit from where it is eroding into the into the lake," Smith said.

The berm is one of multiple rebuilding and climate adaption projects slated for the community. Smith said the community is also working on housing subdivision developments that are flood-resilient, as well as elevating some roads and creating more drainage solutions and protection.

Smith said although the $1.1 million is a huge help, it would take a lot more to get other mitigation measures off the ground.

The town's application to redo its Airport Road is close to $5 million, whereas housing developments come in at about $20 million.

"We're underfunded as it is," Smith said. "It's not easy, but we're working hard."

The town's top priority is to prepare for the upcoming flood and fire seasons, which means lots of time spent applying for funding, planning and consulting with engineers.

'It's a really big draw on human resources," Smith said. "It's the new reality of what we live in."

Shawn Buckley, a local commercial fisherman, saw his property extensively damaged in the 2022 flood.

Shawn Buckley is a fisherman, tour guide and longtime Hay River resident.
Shawn Buckley is a fisherman, tour guide and longtime Hay River resident.

Shawn Buckley, pictured in this photo from 2022, is a fisherman, tour guide and longtime Hay River resident. (Loren McGinnis/ CBC)

Buckley said he's happy to see money being put into flood mitigation.

"The berm itself, it has stopped a lot of floods from before. It stops the ice from coming in and destroying stuff," Buckley said.

"So if that ice starts moving in, it'll just saw away at everything along that shoreline."

Buckley said the berm saved the town from previous flooding, and it's crucial that it be repaired.

"We appreciate where we live and that's the reason why we live there," Buckley said.

Smith said the town is already preparing for the upcoming flood season, but he's hopeful this year will be easier.

"This year, we have extremely low water in the river and lake systems," he said.

Smith said Hay River residents will be seeing more communication in the coming weeks about the upcoming flood and fire season.