Nihtat Gwich’in Council takes wind turbine case to NWT Supreme Court
The Nihtat Gwich’in Council is heading to the NWT Supreme Court in a bid to block the development of a wind turbine project on a reindeer grazing reserve.
In late October, regulator the Gwich’in Land and Water Board ruled the territorial government had a right to occupy the land in question, near Inuvik, for the turbine.
The board dismissed the council’s contention that the land had been set aside as a reindeer grazing reserve and developing it would “undermine the protective purpose” of that reserve.
Court documents published to the public registry this week show the Nihtat Gwich’in are asking the NWT Supreme Court to quash the Gwich’in Land and Water Board’s decision.
The council is also asking the court to rule that the NWT Energy Corporation, which is ultimately owned by the NWT government, has no lawful right to occupy the land.
In addition, the council contends that the NWT government failed in its “duty to consult and accommodate” regarding the turbine project and the proposed land use.
In its appeal, the Nihtat Gwich’in Council will argue that the regulator made errors in assessing the wind turbine project’s request to use the land.
Those allegations relate to how the regulatory board characterized ownership of the land, whether or not “disposition of land” occurred, and the board’s decision not to determine whether a wind turbine project was “contrary to the purposes of the reindeer grazing reserve.”
The council claims the board’s decision has the effect of allowing the GNWT “unfettered rights to occupy public lands, without consultation, even when those lands are subject to land withdrawal orders and modern treaties.”
The allegations have not yet been tested in court. The NWT Supreme Court is set to hear the case on January 8, 2021.