Gwich’in Tribal Council supports wind project in Arctic Canada despite Nihtat Gwich’in Council opposition

The Gwich’in Tribal Council is supporting NT Energy’s plan to build a wind turbine at Highpoint, 12 kilometers east of Inuvik, despite opposition to the project by the Nihtat Gwich’in Council, which is challenging it in court. (David Donnelly/CBC)
Grand Chief says Nihtat Gwich’in argument against wind turbine ‘fundamentally flawed’

The Gwich’in Tribal Council wants to see a wind energy project near Inuvik move ahead despite one of its member First Nations challenging the project in court.

“The Inuvik wind project could bring significant benefits to Inuvik and the surrounding Mackenzie Delta region from the development of our natural renewable resources,” said Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Smith.

NT Energy, which is owned by the government of the Northwest Territories, is proposing to build a single wind turbine in an area known as Highpoint, 12 kilometres east of Inuvik.

The Gwich’in Land and Water Board approved a water licence and land use permit for the project on Nov. 27. The same day, the Nihtat Gwich’in Council asked the N.W.T. Supreme Court to overturn an earlier board decision on the project.

Reindeer concerns “fundamentally flawed,” says Grand Chief

In January, the Nihtat Gwich’in argued that Highpoint is part of a 17,094-square-kilometre area that was set aside for reindeer grazing in 1933. It argued that the wind project would contravene that agreement. The Gwich’in Land and Water Board disagreed. It is that board decision that the Nihtat Gwich’in are asking the court to overturn.

Smith said the Gwich’in had little to do with creating the reserve. He said it was part of a federal government initiative to introduce reindeer into the area.

“The notion that the Gwich’in are concerned about reindeer is fundamentally flawed,” said the grand chief. “The Gwich’in rely primarily on caribou, and this reindeer grazing area that they mention … has limited bearing on who we are as land owners and rights holders.”

Smith also questioned the Nihtat assertion that they were not consulted about the use of the land being changed. He said NT Energy has been talking to the Gwich’in about the project since 2016.

Smith said he is hoping to get together with the Nihtat leaders to talk about the project and the court action.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Community in northern Quebec to make the jump from diesel to hydroelectricity, CBC News

Finland: How will Finland become carbon neutral by 2035?, Yle News

Norway: Emissions dropping in EU, but not in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Alaska remote diesel generators win exemption from pollution rule, Alaska Public Media

Richard Gleeson, CBC News

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