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N.W.T. gov't investigating cause of Taltson flooding, pledges support to trappers

The N.W.T.'s department of environment and natural resources is investigating the cause of flooding along the Taltson River that's led to 'major losses' for trappers along the riverbanks, according to its South Slave regional superintendent for wildlife.

Trappers reported massive damage to cabins, equipment after winter flood along riverbank

Photos provided by Arthur Beck show his Taltson River cabin and equipment inside it flooded and frozen over. (Arthur Beck/Facebook)

The N.W.T.'s department of environment and natural resources is investigating the cause of flooding along the Taltson River that's led to "major losses" for trappers along the riverbanks, according to its South Slave regional superintendent for wildlife.

Tony Vermillion said that the department sent officers out to the impacted area after being notified of the flooding. Last week, a trapper posted photos online that showed cabins and equipment coated in frozen ice. 

For some of the trappers, the flooding has resulted in losses that "will endager their livelihoods, for sure," said Vermillion. Two tourism operations were also impacted.

"I did see some of the pictures, and speaking with them, it is pretty tragic that the flooding occurred. And I really feel for them, because trapping is a big part of their culture and economy in that area."

Arthur Beck, one of the impacted trappers, laid the blame for the flood at the feet of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and the nearby Taltson Dam. A spokesperson for the power corporation told CBC that there weren't any operational activities — planned or unplanned —"that could have resulted in higher downstream water levels."

Arthur Beck says all the cabins in the area along the Taltson River, along with much of people's trapping equipment, was ruined by flooding due to high water levels. The territorial government says it's working to support the impacted trappers as it tries to determine the cause of the flood. (Arthur Beck/Facebook)

Vermillion says that a key next step for the department will be to determine the ultimate cause of the flooding, examining available hydrological data and conducting an aerial survey of the area.

"Our role at this point is basically just to gather information, observe what the damage is, see how far the extent of damage is along the river, see how much flooding there is, and possibly see what we might see that will come in the springtime," said Vermillion.

He added that the full extent of the damage, including the impact it's had on local wildlife, won't be fully known until spring thaw, but pledged that the department would keep residents updated through regular news releases.

Support for trappers

As for those directly affected, Vermillion says the department is looking for opportunities to support them. They have conducted initial meetings with the trappers, explaining the process for filing claims for their losses under the government's disaster compensation program.

Vermillion says department crews could also be deployed in the spring to help trappers haul out damaged material, "maybe even hauling in some new material for the cabins to help them rebuild."

Anyone who has been impacted or is seeking information should contact the environment and natural resources officer in their community, he said. 

"We feel for a lot of the harvesters out there. We deal with them day to day, and it's tough to see them in this kind of hardship. But we're gonna support them as best we can, and help them through this."

Based on an interview by Lawrence Nayally

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