Tuktoyaktuk working with feds to address climate change and eroding shoreline

The federal government says $5.5 million will help with clean energy projects among other more pressing climate-related issues for the community, like its eroding shoreline.

Funds available for clean energy projects and response to community's coastal erosion problem

Coastal erosion in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., is a major threat to homes in the community. The federal government announced funding Friday to help with this problem. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., will be going green with the installation of new solar panels in the next couple years.

On Friday, the federal government announced in a news release that it is continuing to work with the N.W.T. government, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and other northern communities to help with clean energy projects and other more pressing climate-related issues for the area.

According to the backgrounder attached to the government release, the most recent funding provides $475,000 over two years to support the installation of 51 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic systems on four hamlet buildings, including one on the community hall, one on the fire hall and two on the garage. 

"We're trying to go green and lower our [operations and maintenance] costs," said Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Erwin Elias. "Everything that we're receiving currently is a huge support."

The release says the energy generated from this solar panels will result in approximately $60,000 in savings and 19,000 litres of diesel avoided annually.

Across Canada's North, thawing permafrost, wetter summers and warmer winters are drastically affecting vital infrastructure, like roads, airports, buildings and cemeteries.

As global temperatures rise, the coastline at Tuktoyaktuk retreats further inland. Coastal erosion in Tuktoyaktuk has been threatening residents' homes for decades and several homes have been relocated as parts of the community are at risk of falling into the Arctic Ocean

Some residents were forced to relocate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2016-17, the federal government has allocated more than $5.5 million to help monitor and address the effects of climate change in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

Canada's Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal said in the release that $3.6 million of the funding is going specifically to the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk and the N.W.T. government to support efforts in the community's response to its eroding shorelines. The money will help relocate residents to safer areas and will help with measures to protect the shoreline, states the news release.

A Tuktoyaktuk resident used lumber and plastic fencing to build makeshift coastal barriers in this photo from 2019. (Weronika Murray/Submitted by Noella Cockney)

Using the funding, Mayor Elias said they were able to move three buildings, identifying homes that were the most vulnerable.

"Going forward, it's obviously something that we're going to continue to pursue for emergency purposes," he said. "We want to make sure if there's any buildings ready to fall into the ocean, we have an option for these people."

Estimates suggest costs related to permafrost degradation could cost the territory hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a climate change report from the Council of Canadian Academies, funded by the federal government.

Specifically in Tuktoyaktuk, elders, youth and scientists are documenting changes to help find solutions to its climate-related issues.

Elias said all of these efforts are simply buying time.

"If we can protect the shoreline for another 30 years, it will give us time to move inland because we all can't up and leave tomorrow," he said. 

"We can't compete with Mother Earth so eventually we are going to be moving inland."

With files from Alex Brockman


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