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Arial of hydro dam

Adapting to Climate Change While Protecting the Environment

Water Security for a Vibrant Future

Climate change is creating significant human-existence challenges worldwide.

In Hartley Bay, community members have noticed and reported on local changes such as low creek levels in hotter, dryer summers, seaweed taking longer to dry than in previous years, increased rain and water flow in winter, and increased drought and fire danger in summer.


As far back as the 1970s, Gitga’ata advocates fought to avoid burning diesel to create electricity in Hartley Bay. Cleaning the air by eliminating greenhouse gases (GHGs) was a driving force. The advocates were in favour of building a local clean energy hydroelectric project, using the five metres of annual rainfall in the Great Bear Rainforest to generate electricity. In 1978, the Federal Government deemed a $1 million project estimate too much.

In 2003, based on two years of prior meetings, Gitga’at First Nation members wrote their direction in a Community Energy Plan. Feedback from members indicated that they wanted a hydroelectric project. The initiative would bring economic spinoffs, energy security, reduced power costs, and many other local benefits—protecting fish, reducing GHGs, and improving community health. 


Studies of all the potential nearby water resources determined that the Hydroelectric Project would utilize Hartley Bay’s watershed, also known as the Gabion Watershed or Watershed #7288, as the best hydroelectric resource to pursue. This Water Security Project is vital to climate resilience while obtaining water and power assurance. 

A reliable, independent power source also means food security in Hartley Bay. Projects of this nature provide employment and training opportunities and catalyze sustainable economic development efforts in the community and the Nation’s territory.

Bear standing in river
Rocks in river


Addressing Climate Risk with New Infrastructure

Water security, or watershed security, implies sufficient high-quality water for healthy ecosystems and communities. 


Watershed security can be different in every area and is best defined locally. In 2019, a provincial Climate Risk Assessment concluded that seasonal and long-term water shortages are among the greatest risks to residents of BC. Research demonstrates that climate change can amplify weather patterns, potentially resulting in heat waves, wildfires, and floods, as we have seen throughout the province.


Phase one of the Water and Energy Security Projects involves building a weir/dam structure at the mouth of the Upper Gabion Lake. The asset will be approximately 5.5-metre high, 100–110-metre long concrete and steel structure. It is one asset with three functions


  • Excess water overflow and release

  • Controlled release of impounded water during drought conditions and for energy creation the rest of the year

  • Protecting fish and their habitats through a continuous in-stream flow release


Once built, the weir structure will enable Hartley Bay to control flows from the Upper Lake —conserving water to discharge it to offset drought when required and releasing excess volumes over the spillway. This infrastructure will put the Nation in a strong position to withstand and adapt to climate change.  


Preserving Water Resources in our Territory

Safe Drinking
Water for All

Whether freshwater or saltwater, the lives, culture, and traditions of Gitga’at members rely heavily on waters within the Nation’s territory. All beings require high-quality water that is safe to consume—a dam will give the Nation additional water reserves should climate change dry up the creeks and rivers that feed Hartley Bay.

Healthy Watershed Ecosystems

As part of water security, the Water Sustainability Act is the primary law governing freshwater in BC. Gitga’at First Nation will complete all provincially required scientific and cultural studies to build the Water Security project and achieve legal and regulatory approvals. We will follow all other provincial and federal laws about water management.

Reduced Risk from Drought

GFN will apply for a Water Licence to build the weir and dam for their water security and energy projects. After the dam construction, Upper Lake water levels will rise by 3 metres. Water security and electricity production will be achieved through water release management and will provide the Nation with always available water for fire control, drinking water, sewage management, and fish flows.

view of hydro at night


With Partial Funding Secured, Construction Has Begun

The Government of Canada has agreed with Gitga’at First Nation that climate change threatens Hartley Bay’s water supply in hot, dry summers. They have agreed to fund the weir construction with a dam, and controls to impound water. A road is being built to get up to the mouth of the Upper Lake and get the materials and equipment to construct the weir. As at January 2024 the road is built to get up to the mouth of the Upper Lake and get the materials and equipment there to construct the weir.

The weir assets will be built with the Water Licence secured, and then the penstock, powerhouse, switchyard, and transmission lines can be installed.




Ongoing (Evergreen)

Stakeholder Engagement

Members are informed of developments through public meetings, newsletters, annual reports and this website.

Environmental and Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting

While many reports have been written, there will always be a requirement to monitor and report on the Gitga’at Power Project in relation to environmental and water quality issues

The Upper Lake Road

GFN acquired a Provincial Licence of Occupation to build the road. The 5.5 km road from the village to the mouth of the Upper Lake is completed in January 2024. Funded in part by Infrastructure Canada’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation program.

Pre-feasibility and Feasibility Studies

The Gitga’at Power Project has been studied for many years. The project configuration has received no objections from BC Hydro. GOLD is facilitating environmental and permitting requirements.

Funding for the Weir/Dam and Controls

Infrastructure Canada through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation program has agreed to fund in part the construction of the weir/dam and controls.

Investigative Plan

The Gitga’at Power Project Investigative Plan was submitted in September 2023. The Licence was issued February 2024.

Gitga’at Power Project Development Funding

The Province has committed $2 million to assist with the final development of the hydroelectric project. 

Traditional Use Studies

GOLD is currently monitoring the watershed environment and setting standards for project development. In June 2023 a Traditional Use Study was completed regarding the watershed.


Written Archaeological Resource Chance Find Procedures and Management Guidelines for the Construction of the Gitga’at Nation’s Water Security Project on Gabion Lake near Hartley Bay, B.C.. We received a Heritage Conservation Act Permit valid to December 2025.

Documents included: 

  • Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA) report for the Gitga’at Power Project.

  • Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA) report for the Gabion Lake Access Road. 

  • Gitga’at First Nation - Archaeological Blanket Permit


ISC is reviewing a request to fund the Investigative Use Permit allowed exploration in the reach, particularly trail building.
The Gitga’at Power Project requires capital funding to build beyond the weir/dam and install the penstock, powerhouse, tailrace, switchyard and transmission assets.

Permitting and Design

The Provincial Development Plan requires 30% engineering design completed. That means situating the assets in the best possible foundations. To know exactly where to anchor and build the hydro assets we need drilled rock and soil analysis. By February 2024 we received the Provincially required Investigative Use Permit to get those samples. That means building robust trails along the asset path in the reach. By September of 2024 GFN will submit its new and improved Development Plan for review.

Development Plan

Provincial Development Plan redrafted, new approval is being sought September 2024, Provincial Water Licence to be issued, DFO and Provincial authorizations to be acquired.

Gitga'at Logo


Stay Up to Date With The Latest News and Opportunities

Whether you want to stay in the loop or hear about job or training opportunities related to the Water Security Project, check back often here in the member’s area by logging in.

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