Erosion triggers diversion, search for cash in Fort Simpson

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Across the Northwest Territories, communities are racing to find solutions as they watch their lands erode into oceans and rivers.

Fort Simpson, a community of 1,200 on an island in the Mackenzie River, has had to divert traffic around sections of road because the community does not have the money to fix deteriorating infrastructure.

“There are some sections of bank that are quite stable,” said Darrell White, the village's senior administrative officer, “but then there are small sections [where] there have been signs of erosion over the years.”

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The village has had to reroute traffic from Mackenzie Drive, the road that runs along the riverbank. 

But the problem – other than the erosion – is finding money to stabilize the road.

“We do recognize that any remedies there are very expensive,” said White.

“It’s something that only could be done with a lot of funding from other levels of government.”

In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the NWT Climate Change Committee for Adaptation provided funding for "riverbank and slope stabilization assessments” to be completed in Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Fort Smith, and Fort McPherson.

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Fort Simpson has not received any similar funding. White said the village's council might look at applying for such assistance but, as yet, nothing has been decided.

For now, councillors are focusing on creating awareness of the problem and educating the community about areas at risk.

Fort Simpson's council held a public meeting on April 9 to inform the community and receive opinions.

Since that meeting, council has yet to further discuss the issue and decide what to do.