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Dredging to resume in Hay River harbour this summer

Dredging work will continue in the Hay River harbour this summer. Part of the Hay River harbour restoration project, dredging began last summer, and will run from June 3 to Sept. 14 this year.
Dredging work will soon resume at the Hay River harbour, in hopes of mitigating the extreme low water levels in the area. The work is expected to have minimal impact on local boaters.

Dredging work will continue in the Hay River harbour this summer. 

Part of the Hay River harbour restoration project, dredging began last summer, and will run from June 3 to Sept. 14 this year. 

Dredging involves removing sediments and debris from the bottom of a body of water to keep the waterway navigable in the face of low water levels. Workers in Hay River will employ a method called mechanical dredging, using excavators on barges to withdraw approximately 80,000 cubic metres of sediment from the water and stockpile it on shore for re-use at a later date. Their work will focus on a 30-metre wide channel through the harbour, which will ultimately be deeper and safer for boats when the job is done. 

“The Hay River harbour is used by MTS barges and tug vessels, Canadian Coast Guard vessels, the commercial fishing fleet, and recreational boats, among others, who require a minimum water depth to safely transit to and from Great Slave Lake,” a spokesperson for the GNWT’s Department of Infrastructure said. Restoring a channel in the harbour is required to reinstate a safe water depth for navigation, which is vital as part of the essential community resupply originating from Hay River.” 

The work may cause slight changes to typical boat traffic, but recreational and small boats will be able to detour around the dredging areas. 

Peter Fox, who operates Brabant Lodge, does not believe the work will impact his company’s business, which includes fishing charters on the river. 

“I think the dredging out front of Hay River is great for the town and the larger NWT community,” he said. “Lots of communities rely on the barges and the river to get supplies through the summer, so having the Hay River harbour usable and functional seems like an obvious good choice. 

“Additionally, for my business we usually use the navigational buoys the coast guard places as safe channel markers and turn signals to denote our fishing spots. If the coast guard can’t get out of Hay River, then they can’t place the buoys near the lodge. The Hay River dredging project seems to me to be a great idea with no direct downside for my business personally.” 

Glenn Smith, the town’s senior administrative officer, shares Fox’s perspective. 

“The Town of Hay River issued support over the last couple of years for the harbour restoration and dredging project,” he said. “It was good to see that they were able to start last year amidst the evacuations and challenges with the water situation. 

“We understand there’s been some tweaks, and they’re expecting to dredge quite a bit more material into a larger area of the river system this year, so that’s good to see. Obviously the extremely low water looks to make it quite challenging this year.” 

Smith is hopeful there will be further dredging along the river system in the future as long as the proper precautions are taken. 

“Hopefully they can use this as a method to evaluate success and to create a business case that can be then applied in the future for continuous dredging of the river system,” he said. “There might be some concerns on the efficiency of this technique, but you know, we trust that the experts consider all the environmental and technical implications, and hopefully they find the best solution.” 

About the Author: Tom Taylor

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