Northwest Territories Activity Report to the Mackenzie River Basin Board
May 2014


1. GNWT Initiatives

·  GNWT Drinking Water Action Plan

·  NWT Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program

·  Guidelines for the Determination of Water Quality Objectives

·  Transboundary Water and Sediment Quality Monitoring

·  NWT Water Stewardship Strategy

·  Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent

2. Joint/Other Initiatives

·  Water Boards

·  Environmental Assessments and Regulation

·  Mackenzie Gas Project

·  Protected Areas Strategy

·  Land-Use Planning

·  Guidelines for the Closure and Reclamation of Advanced Mineral Exploration and Mine Sites in the NWT

On April 1, 2014, in accordance with the Land and Resources Devolution Agreement, the responsibility for the management of water in the Northwest Territories (NWT) transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories, except for water on retained federal areas.


GNWT Drinking Water Action Plan

Managing Drinking Water Quality in the Northwest Territories May 2005 outlines a safe drinking water framework and strategy for the NWT that includes Keeping NWT Water Clean. The current focus is on supporting communities in areas of community-based monitoring, source water protection planning, water treatment plant infrastructure management (planning, design, construction, and operations), operator certification, meeting regulatory requirements, and monitoring water quality. Increasing public awareness and making drinking water quality data available through a drinking water quality database have been key activities. Community drinking water quality data is accessible via GNWT Municipal and Community Affairs’ website at: and public awareness videos on a variety of topics related to drinking water management are available on the HSS YouTube Channel at: Community source water catchment maps are available at The 2010 GNWT Report on Drinking Water was released in September 2011.

NWT Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program

The Northwest Territories Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (NWT CIMP) uses science and traditional knowledge to examine how all uses of land and water, and deposits of waste, affect the environment of the NWT now and in the future. Program activities are designed to meet the information needs of decision makers. The program is based in land claim agreements and legislation, and follows a community-based approach to monitor the human and biophysical aspects of the environment. Programs in all regions of the NWT are underway with a focus on priorities set by decision-makers: fish, water, and caribou. The program is guided by the NWT CIMP Working Group, which is a partnership among NWT Aboriginal governments, the Government of Canada, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

NWT Water Stewardship Strategy

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and Aboriginal Governments released Northern Voices, Northern Waters: NWT Water Stewardship Strategy in May 2010. An associated Action Plan was released in May 2011 to guide the implementation of the Strategy-identified “Keys to Success”. Both documents may be downloaded from the water strategy website:

The implementation of Keys to Success is well underway through a number of activities, including the following:

·  coordinating a collaborative effort to support community-based monitoring activities across the NWT

·  developing aquatic ecosystem health indicators

·  providing resources and training to communities on developing community source water protection plans

·  building community capacity to ensure municipal water licence monitoring occurs and compliance requirements are met

·  promoting educational outreach activities during Canada Water Week

·  coordinating sharing and storing water-related information (for example, see

An implementation update and a partnership review of the past and ongoing implementation activities have been documented in a Progress Report (released summer 2013) and a summarizing brochure, which was delivered to all NWT mailboxes (fall 2013). Both can be accessed at

Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent (CWS for MWWE)

The 2009 CWS for MWWE has two intended outcomes: increased protection of the environment and human health, as well as regulatory clarity. MRBB member jurisdictions, including the NWT, continue to address implementation collaboratively. In May 2014, a five-year review of the CWS for MWWE was completed and published to the CCME website.
The NWT continues to participate in the Northern Working Group to address the parts of the strategy that relate to “Canada’s Far North”, including proposing Northern Performance Standards, and examining environmental risk, funding options, and sustainability issues. Nunavut is currently completing extensive research into the performance of northern wastewater systems in collaboration with researchers at Dalhousie University. The results from this research will be available in early 2015 and will provide valuable data to support the development of northern performance standards.
The Strategy promotes a watershed approach for environmental effects monitoring. The MRB forum may be an appropriate mechanism to discuss this further.


Water Boards

Regional land and water boards were created in the NWT pursuant to lands resources, self-government agreements and federal legislation. The new territorial Waters Act will also direct the Boards activities. The GNWT and Canada review applications for water licenses from the following NWT Boards:

·  Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board (MVLWB)

·  Sahtu Land and Water Board

·  Gwich’in Land and Water Board

·  Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board

·  Inuvialuit Water Board (Inuvialuit Settlement Region only)

The MVLWB posts all applications for land use permits and water licenses on its website. The site also tracks applications for the Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board, the Sahtu Land and Water Board, and the Gwich’in Land and Water Board. The Inuvialuit Water Board also posts applications for water licences on its website.

Environmental Assessments

The body responsible for conducting environmental assessments in the NWT portion of the MRB depends on the location the proposed developments. In the Mackenzie Valley region, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB) carries out environmental assessments. In the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, the Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) carries out environmental assessments under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, and, in some cases, federal entities also carry out environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

The following environmental assessments are actively being carried out by the MVEIRB and fall within the MRB:

·  Jay Project (Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation)

·  Snap Lake Project Water Licence Amendment (De Beers Canada Incorporated)

·  Prairie Creek All Season Road and Airstrip (Canadian Zinc Corporation)

·  Giant Mine Remediation Project (Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Government of Canada, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, GNWT) (awaiting Ministerial decision)

·  Mackenzie Valley Highway (Department of Transportation, GNWT)

The following environmental assessments have been recently approved and fall within the MRB:

·  Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine Project (De Beers Canada Incorporated)

·  Nechalacho Rare Earth Element Project (Avalon Rare Metals Inccorporated)

·  NICO Project (Fortune Minerals Limited)

There are no environmental assessments currently being carried out by the EIRB that fall within the MRB; however, the following project being assessed could have implications on the MRB due to its proximity:

·  Beaufort Sea Exploration Joint Venture Drilling Program (Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited). This project will also be assessed by the National Energy Board under CEAA 2012.

Both the MVEIRB and EIRB have searchable public registry databases for information related to the environmental assessment of projects. Databases are found at the following addresses, respectively: and

Mackenzie Gas Project

The Governments of Canada and Northwest Territories approved the Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) to proceed to the regulatory stage. Additionally, Imperial Oil Resource Ventures Limited (IORVL) received a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity authorization from the National Energy Board, which gives IORVL until December 2016 to begin construction.

NWT Protected Areas Strategy

The NWT Protected Areas Strategy (PAS) is a process to establish a network of protected areas across the NWT with the goal to identify and protect special natural and cultural areas and core representative areas of the ecoregions of the NWT. The PAS was drafted and has been advised by an advisory steering committee, including representatives from eight Aboriginal parties, industry, non-governmental environmental organizations and federal and territorial governments. Implementation of the PAS is currently a joint responsibility of AANDC and the GNWT; however, these responsibilities are devolving to the GNWT on April 1, 2014. The GNWT is assuming a more prominent role in managing the lands and resources of the NWT with devolution. Ensuring the NWT land remains healthy for future generations is a priority of the GNWT.

Through the PAS, one National Historic Site with surface and subsurface protection has been established. There are currently 7 candidate areas within the PAS, some are sponsored by Environment Canada as potential National Wildlife Areas and others are sponsored by the GNWT as potential wildlife conservation areas and/or territorial parks.. More information can be found on the PAS website at

Ecological Representation

A key goal of the PAS is to achieve ecological representation of the 45 ecoregions of the NWT within the network of protected areas in the NWT. The GNWT is developing a plan, termed the Ecological Representation Network Plan (ERNP), to provide clarity on criteria needed to achieve ecological representation and to define how the GNWT will move forward with filling gaps in ecological representation. It will recognize the need to balance conservation and economic development, while respecting Aboriginal rights. The plan will be supported by the development and implementation of northern tools to protect new core protected areas.

In order to analyse the current network for its contribution to ecological representation and identify gaps, standard principles of conservation planning are used. As part of a coarse-filter ecological representation analyses, the PAS released the report “Methods for Identifying Potential Core Representative Areas for the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy”, which describes the methodology used to identify representative habitats. It can be found at

However, some features might not be captured by the coarse-filter analysis; therefore a fine-filter approach is also used to ensure that special features in the NWT are also represented. Results of these analyses and maps are available on the PAS website at The information on special features collected to date is: globally rare and may be at risk plants, amphibians and reptiles, hot and warm springs, eskers, mineral licks, glacial refugia, karst, beaches and beach ridges, deltas, waterfalls and rapids.

Freshwater Classification

Freshwater ecosystems are an important part of the NWT. The PAS has developed a coarse-scale freshwater classification for the NWT to ensure that freshwater ecosystems are also represented in protected areas. This reflects the PAS goal to protect representative ecosystems. The classification will be used for several analyses:

1.  A gap analysis that will determine which freshwater classes are currently represented within existing and candidate protected areas.

2.  Refined ecological representation analysis.

3.  Contribute to developing monitoring protocols within protected areas.

For more detail, please see:

A copy of the report describing methods used to develop the coarse-scale freshwater classification can be downloaded from that page.

Management and Monitoring

Protected areas are important in future ecological management and monitoring programs. The PAS works collaboratively with community, board, and inter-governmental organizations to implement these programs. Many protected areas in the NWT are considered ecological benchmarks, which are ideal locations for baseline ecological monitoring. This is because many protected areas are large, intact, ecologically representative landscapes where ecological processes continue naturally, and they are established for the long term and the legislation used to protect them has the intent to prohibit industrial development.

Land-Use Planning


Northern Lands, Northern Leadership: The GNWT Land Use and Sustainability Framework ( sets forth the GNWT’s Vision and Guiding Principles for land management in the Northwest Territories. Released in early 2014, it identifies regional land use planning as the primary instrument to define where certain activities can take place, and affirms the importance of incorporating community and regional aspirations in land use plans.

Land Use Plans provide local input into the overall framework for resource management in the Northwest Territories. Land use plans are used to establish regional zones and broad criteria to help evaluate and screen project proposals as part of regulatory permitting processes. Zoning provisions identify the following:

·  areas that are well suited for industrial development

·  areas that can support industrial development while respecting specific cultural or ecological values, and

·  areas where, for cultural or ecological reasons, development is prohibited.

The GNWT participates in land use planning initiatives throughout the territory as a stakeholder, regulator and in some cases, as an approver. In addition, the GNWT participates in transboundary planning initiatives in Alberta, and the territories of Nunavut and the Yukon. Water management is the key interest that guides the GNWT in these planning processes.

Land Use Plans and Water Management

Legally-binding land use plans are in place in the Sahtu and Gwich’in land claim regions, and on private lands in the Tłįchǫ. The Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee are also developing a new Draft Interim Dehcho Land Use Plan. In the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, there are non-legally binding Community Conservation Plans that are essentially community based land use plans to guide acceptable activities within specific regions. Table X provides a summary of how each planning initiative provides guidance or legally-binding requirements with regard to water management in the NWT. Collectively, the guidance and/or legally binding direction in land use plans plays an integral role in managing waters in the NWT.

Guidelines for the Closure and Reclamation of Advanced Mineral Exploration and Mine Sites in the NWTAANDC worked jointly with the Land and Water Boards of the Mackenzie Valley to develop a joint guidance document entitled Guidelines for the Closure and Reclamation of Advanced Mineral Exploration and Mine Sites in the Northwest Territories. Consultation undertaken with Aboriginal community members, scientific experts, mining industry representatives, regulatory authorities and others greatly benefited the final content of the guidelines.

This document complements the Mine Site Reclamation Policy for the Northwest Territories drafted by AANDC in 2002 and supesedes AANDC’s Mine Site Reclamation Guidelines for the Northwest Territories (2007).

The guidelines were publicly released in November 2013.

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