GNWT concludes Hay River Harbour restoration work for 2023

News Releases

Hay River — October 11, 2023

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has completed work for the 2023 season to dredge an emergency navigable channel in the Hay River Harbour, a critical link in the territory’s transportation network.

The long-standing navigation channel in the Hay River Harbour has been affected by natural and on-going sedimentation, which in combination with extremely low water levels has challenged the movement of vessels in this area. The intent of the project is to create a 30-metre-wide by 2.4-metre-deep emergency navigable channel to allow safe passage of marine vessels to and from the Hay River Harbour. 

The dredging work began in early August but was paused due to the Hay River evacuation. Dredging work officially resumed on September 18, 2023, and was completed on October 7, 2023, per the requirements outlined in the project’s regulatory authorizations. Given that the GNWT had a small window to dredge into the fall of 2023, the focus of dredging activities was removing sediment from a priority area at the outfall of the Hay River into Great Slave Lake, referred to as ‘the Plug.’ The work completed this fall has opened a 30-metre-wide by 2.4-metre-deep channel through this area. The GNWT will work with regulators and the contractor to complete the remainder of the emergency dredging scope of work in the summer of 2024.

The GNWT is appreciative of $3 million in federal support from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. The GNWT has also applied under Transport Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan for support to fund a multi-year project to fully restore navigability of the harbour and channel.

The Hay River Harbour is a key transportation hub linking the southern highway and rail system to the Northwest Territories’ marine transportation corridors. It houses the main terminal for GNWT Marine Transportation Services, a Canadian Coast Guard base and important infrastructure for the territory’s fishing industry.  


“Restoring and maintaining the Hay River Harbour is important for the residents and businesses who use the harbour as well as for the NWT’s essential community marine resupply activities. The GNWT will continue to work towards providing access to safe and secure marine shipping in the territory, completingan emergency navigable channel and impressing on the Government of Canada the critical need for it to fund a multi-year project to restore the harbour.”

- Diane Archie, Minister of Infrastructure

Quick facts

  • A build-up of sediment in the harbour has created navigational hazards for marine vessels and is threatening this key NWT marine supply hub.
  • The deposition of sediment is a natural and ongoing process in Hay River Harbour and has been building up since the last Government of Canada dredging activity in 1997.
  • Approximately 84,000 cubic metres of sediment are slated for removal in the Hay River and the entrance to Great Slave Lake.

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Public Affairs and Communications

Department of Infrastructure

Government of the Northwest Territories