Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk: Climate Change and Coastal Erosion

Since the mid 1990’s, the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories has been working to address the effects of climate change, such as coastal erosion, by developing climate monitoring capacity and building research skills within the community. For several decades, the community of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories has been experiencing the effects of climate change including serious coastal erosion. Erosion protection works were implemented between 1998 and 2001 however, coastal erosion remains an ongoing concern for the community and future sea level rise is expected to increase rates of erosion.

Now, with support from the Government of Canada, through Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s Climate Change Directorate, the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk and Government of Northwest Territories are building off previous work completed and are further supporting the community’s coastal erosion mitigation efforts. For example, since 2016-2017, the Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program has contributed $3.655 million to support the implementation of a suite of adaptation measures, including the relocation of residents from the peninsula to a different sub division located in the community that is at a higher elevation and to plan future steps toward the hamlet’s preferred adaptation option to mitigate the severe current and future impacts. The Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation also received funding to operationalize the SmartICE technology to generate sea-ice information for community safe travel, to respond to the impacts of deteriorating sea ice conditions and to engage the Youth of the community by producing a climate change adaptation documentary. Overall, the combined support of CIRNAC through its different climate change programs represents a contribution of $5.516 million by the Government of Canada in support to Tuktoyaktuk to address the community climate adaptation and mitigation needs.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

For several decades, the community of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories has been experiencing the effects of climate change including serious coastal erosion. Erosion protection works were implemented between 1998 and 2001 however, coastal erosion remains an ongoing concern for the community and future sea level rise is expected to increase rates of erosion.

The Government of Northwest Territories received federal funding of $240,000 through Public Safety Canada’s National Disaster Mitigation Program to develop a coastal erosion mitigation plan, including enhancement of public safety and reduction of future erosion damage through the identification of coastal erosion hazards. Various stakeholders were involved including the territorial government, Indigenous governments, local authorities and the residents themselves, in monitoring the extent of coastal erosion caused by rapidly melting sea ice.

Identifying Actions

The Government of Northwest Territories received federal funding of $240,000 through Public Safety Canada’s National Disaster Mitigation Program to develop a coastal erosion mitigation plan, including enhancement of public safety and reduction of future erosion damage through the identification of coastal erosion hazards. Various stakeholders were involved including the territorial government, Indigenous governments, local authorities and the residents themselves, in monitoring the extent of coastal erosion caused by rapidly melting sea ice. The Government of Canada, through Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s Climate Change Directorate, has partnered with the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk and Government of Northwest Territories to build on this initial work completed and further support the communities coastal erosion mitigation efforts.

Implementation

Since 2016-2017, the Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program has contributed $3.655 million to support the implementation of a suite of adaptation measures, including the relocation of residents from the peninsula to a different sub division located in the community that is at a higher elevation and to plan future steps toward the hamlet’s preferred adaptation option to mitigate the severe current and future impacts. More specifically, the funding will assist establishing the final coastal protection design, meet assessment, permitting and tendering requirements, and provide on-site construction services for the community’s proposed hybrid option. The Hamlet also received funding to support climate change scientists in engaging with the community to disseminate scientific knowledge on coastal dynamic processes ($172,000) and to structurally assess the morgue to determine whether it can withstand a move to a new location where there is minimal risk of coastal erosion ($10,000). In addition, the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation also received funding to operationalize the SmartICE technology to generate sea-ice information for community safe travel ($391,575), to respond to the impacts of deteriorating sea ice conditions ($108,345) and to engage the Youth of the community by producing a climate change adaptation documentary ($185,500). CIRNAC’s Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring Program has further provided $517,720 to develop a locally-managed program to monitor climate change impacts in Tuktoyaktuk and in areas used by the Inuvialuit for traditional activities. Additionally, CIRNAC’s Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity Program (Northern REACHE) is providing $475,000 over two years (2020-21: $225,000; 2021-22: $250,000) 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. The energy generated from this project will result in approximately $60,000 in savings and 19,000 litres of diesel avoided annually.

Overall, the combined support of CIRNAC through its different climate change programs represents a contribution of $5.516 million by the Government of Canada in support to Tuktoyaktuk to address the community climate adaptation and mitigation needs.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation has developed innovative partnerships with researchers and institutions in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region to develop climate monitoring capacity and build research skills. Trained monitors track permafrost variables, ice thickness, ice thaw dates, snow depth, and water quality at monitoring locations informed by Traditional Knowledge. Climate monitoring and time-lapse photo monitoring is generating timely weather information and supporting improved decisions about whether it is safe to go out on the land.

Next Steps

The community of Tuktoyaktuk plans to continue implementing adaptation measures with support from CIRNAC and various partnerships involved, including the territorial government, Indigenous governments, local authorities and the residents themselves.