It looks like the long-awaited dredging on Great Slave Lake near the mouth of the Hay River will be happening this summer. That’s according to the territory’s infrastructure minister.
Diane Archie confirmed in the legislative assembly earlier this month that the initial phase of dredging is set to begin and that a request for proposals (RFP) would be posted for the work.
According to the RFP, the project is titled Hay River Harbour Restoration Emergency Dredging 2023 and bids are being accepted up to June 23. The GNWT Business Incentive Policy (BIP) is in place for this project, meaning only businesses who are part of the BIP registry are eligible to be considered for the contract.
It’s not known how much the contract is worth nor is it known how long it will be for.
Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson brought up the issue during the final day of sitting on June 2.
He said it’s been an ongoing problem which has been talked about several times.
“The Member for Hay River North (R.J. Simpson), when he was sitting on this side, he did the same thing,” he said. “And, you know, Mr. (former MLA Robert) Bouchard, when he was here, he did the same thing. But we haven’t seen any of the infrastructure ministers do anything in the last how many years with this. We haven’t seen any dredging. People in Hay River have been asking for it.”
In response to a written question from then-Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann to R.J. Simpson in 2018, Schumann indicated that dredging the harbour to restore full access would cost between $8 and $10 million.
Schumann stated that the cost may fluctuate depending on factors such as the cost of fuel, oil and gas as well as construction materials, and the timelines required to meet environmental permitting requirements. He also noted that the harbour will require annual maintenance dredging going forward to preserve safe operating depths.
There have been multiple instances of vessels becoming caught in sandbars in recent years; the most recent one happened in October 2022 when the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Dumit became lodged on a sandbar. Cargo from that ship had to be off-loaded onto another one while a tug helped to free the ship.
Two barges also became stuck in August that year and had to be towed back to shore.
“We are getting close to the shipping season here,” said Simpson. “We’re getting close to, you know, the commercial fisheries (starting and) there’s less than four feet of water in the channel so when the fishing boats and MTS barges are loaded, they need a little bit more than that.”
Archie said the engineering permitting process has been completed to get the first phase underway, which will concentrate on the channel and the fisheries, so that they can have access to the harbour.
“It’s important to this government as well as the communities to get supplies and fuel up the (Mackenzie) valley,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of money in the last year from this government, and we can’t afford to do that anymore.”