Board recommends $100,000 compensation to Carter family

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The owners of a fishing lodge on Nonacho Lake – the Carter family of Hay River – has once again not gotten the result they were hoping for from the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.

Philippe de Pizzo, left, a member of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, board chair Mavis Cli-Michaud, and board member Elizabeth Wright hear opening remarks from the Carter family and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation at a hearing on May 16 in Yellowknife. NNSL file photo

On Aug. 10, the board recommended the family be compensated for environmental impacts on its lodge by the Taltson River hydroelectric facility of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

“The Carter family claimants, individually and as a family, experience and will continue to experience adverse impacts on their lifestyle and use of the waters from the continued presence of the NTPC operations on Nonacho Lake and the water system,” the board concluded. “For them this will be a significant nuisance and inconvenience. Appropriate compensation is determined to be $100,000.”

The recommendation goes to Environment and Natural Resources Minister Robert C. McLeod.
Dean Carter, one of the owners of the lodge, said he has not discussed the board decision with other family members.

“I’m personally disappointed by it,” he said.

Carter, who lives in British Columbia, said there has been a lot of environmental damage done by the hydroelectric facility.

“We continue to try to do our best to promote a fishing lodge that has been affected by a facility adversely,” he said.

In a claim for compensation that goes back years, the Carters have pointed to negative impacts on fish, particularly mercury contamination.

“At the same time, we were promoting it to the rest of the world as one of the most pristine on Earth, having no idea that mercury levels were going through the roof,” said Carter. “So we feel we should have been consulted about that.”

Plus, he noted the water level of the lake was raised nearly 10 feet.

“So what you have is basically millions of dead trees that have over 50 years most of them have fallen over and are now on the bottom of the lake,” he said, noting it is a nuisance and boats sometimes hit deadheads from the trees.

The power corp.’s lawyers and experts have argued that the company’s operations have had little to no impact on spawning lake trout over the last 15 years, and that no new flooding or release of mercury into the aquatic environment would result from the operation of the Taltson facilities or at Nonacho Lake.

They have also disputed the suggestion that water fluctuations in the Taltson hydro system are caused by the power corp., claiming they are virtually always caused by nature.

The Carter family originally requested close to $6 million in compensation when the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board was considering the power corp.’s water licence in 2011.

At that time, the board awarded the Carters $62,500, but a justice with the Supreme Court of the NWT ruled in 2014 that the family was denied procedural fairness and the board erred in its decision.

A new hearing was held earlier this year, leading to the board’s latest recommendation.

“And they came up with another $35,000, which doesn’t cover legal fees,” said Carter, who is a director and part-owner of Nonacho Lake Fishing Adventures.

As for whether this is the end of the family’s attempt to seek compensation, he said the family will discuss the matter with its legal counsel.

“So by no means are we considering it the end at this point,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it won’t be the end. But at this point we’re not saying it is the end, either.”

The Carter family has run the fishing lodge on Nonacho Lake, 80 km southeast of Lutsel K’e, for decades.

– with files from Kirsten Fenn