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Water Stewardship for the Health of the Nation

The river that runs through Hartley Bay and out to the Bay and the Douglas Channel feeds the water treatment plant. It’s vital to life for the community.

Life in Hartley Bay depends on this water for drinking, fire suppression systems, firefighting, sewage treatment, gardening, and more. Historically Gitga’ata moved from Old Town to Hartley Bay because of its constant water supply.
The province has named the Watershed, with the Upper and Lower Lakes, as #7288. Sometimes it is called the Gabion Watershed, but that is not a Gitga’at Name.
The Watershed is the only water source for Hartley Bay, and there is virtually no snowpack, so all water is based on precipitation. Fortunately, Hartley Bay gets over 5 metres of rain yearly, but that rain doesn’t always fall in the spring and summer. 

Recently, there have been very low flow years due to climate change and increases in the average temperature, putting the river in danger of running dry periodically.


Ensuring a Community Water Supply

The Government of Canada has agreed to fund the Gitga’at First Nation to build a weir and dam at the outlet of the Upper Lake. These assets will allow the lake level to rise by 3 metres. There will be approximately 5.6 million cubic metres of water available. With the proper management of the release of the water, Hartley Bay will never experience drought.
We have built a new road to the Upper Lake outlet to support the construction of the large cement structure consisting of the weir and dam and controls.
The Province of BC has determined that we require a Water Licence to build the weir and dam. We must complete a Development Plan to obtain the licence. A Development Plan contains many items, including studies (environmental, archeological, inundation, flood risks, etc.), engineered drawings, management plans, and more.

In 2012, Gitga’at had an approved Development Plan for the proposed Hartley Bay Hydroelectric Project. It included a weir and dam. Regulations have since changed. Required documents are being updated to reflect new regulations and requirements.

Instead of just seeking the Water Licence for the weir and dam for the Water Security Project, we are seeking it for the revitalized Gitga’at Power Project at the same time. This will take approximately two years. Once the Development Plan is approved and the Water Licence issued, Gitga’at can begin building the weir, dam, and the remaining hydroelectric assets. Construction will take approximately another year and a half to complete.


Protecting Lands, Water, and Air for Future Generations

Avoiding drought in hot, dry summers is vital to life in Hartley Bay. Drought risks are many—the community requires a constant water supply for drinking and general health, sewage management, firefighting, tourism, fish production, and management, etc. The weir will allow Hartley Bay administration to store and release water as required. When water is abundant, it can be used for electricity generation.


As part of a broader First Nations effort to address climate change, the Hartley Bay hydroelectric project (Gitga’at Power Project) will improve air quality in the community and surrounding area by virtually eliminating the need to use fossil fuels for electricity.

BC Hydro’s diesel-powered generators create approximately 2GWH of electricity with a peak 15 minute demand of 580 kW. The shift to community clean energy will remove up to 2,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. 

The Gitga’at Power Project is energy sovereignty in action. The future of energy generation and storage will offer opportunities in power generation and possibly transmission, hydrogen and solar, for example. Some have the potential to be wealth building.

A decade ago, The Gitga'at Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP) examined the challenges of climate change. The analysis came from multiple perspectives, including values, vulnerability, and action planning. Ten years later and the Hartley Bay Hydroelectric Project is a significant step forward for the Gitga'at Nation in adapting to a changing climate. CCAP considered the risks posed by a shifting climate on the Nation's lands and waters, including factors such as lower water levels in creeks and higher ocean levels leading to more significant impacts from storm surges and flooding. 

Bowl of picked berries


The Road Will Have New Berry Patches

Wetland or bog forest areas comprise roughly one-third of the total project area. The shrub layer has a high tree branch cover, resulting in poor productivity with little seed or berry production potential. The canopy will open over the right-of-way when the road is built. The plan is to plant berries and other productive plants along the route, which will significantly increase the availability of berries. (Think of the road to the Prince Rupert Cannery and its massive and productive salmonberry patches.)

Aerial of forest


A Legacy of Clean Air, Water, and Land

The future of the Gitga’at Nation is its children, and the Nation is in good hands. By making the right investments in renewable energy, the Gitga’at Nation is preserving the lands, waters, and air within the territory. The switch to locally generated clean power will positively impact the community now and in the future. No matter what challenges climate change presents, the Nation will find ways to adapt—just as it has since time immemorial. 

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