• The Mackenzie Delta spans 13, 500 square kilometers and contains approximately 25,000 lakes. (Photo: Patric Halley)

  • Inuvik which means 'place of man' in Inuvialuktun, is the largest community in the delta. (Photo: Patric Halley)

  • Inside Inuvik's famous igloo-shaped church, Our Lady of Victory, residents gather to worship and celebrate.  (Photo: Patric Halley)

  • Drummers perform in Inuvik on National Aboriginal Day (June 21).  (Photo: Patric Halley)

  • Wael Rafat (left) and Ayman El Shafei, moved from Egypt to Inuvik for the job opportunities – both work as taxi drivers.   (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Dental therapist Simon Jozzy visits local schools, teaching children proper dental hygiene.  (Photo: Patric Halley)

  • Mo Grant has been an Inuvik resident since 1975 when she moved from Hay River. She operates several local businesses, including Midnight Express Tours. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • The Mosque in Iunvik is an ATCO trailer. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Inside the trailer, the Mosque is sparsely decorated and furnished.   (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • The mounds in Inuvik's cemetery have been created by permafrost melt, and tend to cause spring flooding in the area. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Simon Jozzy relaxes in his home after a long day of work.  (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Formerly an ice rink, the Inuvik Community Greenhouse has been open to local green thumbs for the past eight years. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • A scenic stretch of the Dempster Highway between Inuvik and Fort McPherson. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • In Fort McPherson, St. Matthew's Anglican Church was first set up as a mission in 1860. Approximately 100 years later a new building was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • In 1911 four RCMP officers left Dawson City to Fort McPherson, but perished in a blizzard along the way. The Anglican Church cemetery is the final resting place of the members of the Lost Patrol. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • St. Matthew Anglican Church cemetery in Fort McPherson. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Mary Teya, 68, often finds solace in nature when she needs escape from her troubles. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • A street scene in Tuktoyaktuk. (Photo: Patrice Halley)

  • Muskoxen are common on the mainland in the Delta area. These horns were found in a Tuktoyaktuk field. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Bill Rutherford, known as 'The Fruit Man,' delivers fresh Vancouver produce to remote northern towns. (Photo: Patrice Halley)

  • Tuktoyaktuk's underground ice-house is a giant community freezer. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Tuktoyaktuk's icehouse is 10 metres underground in the permafrost and has about 20 separate rooms. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Bob Steen, resident of Tuktoyatuk, has roots that trace back to Texas.  (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • These recently painted Inuvik row houses are referred to by locals as 'smartiebox houses.' (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Smartiebox houses. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Tuktoyaktuk's Anglican Church. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Tuktoyaktuk's Catholic Church, Our Lady of Grace was built in 1937. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Tom Thrasher's house in Tuktoyaktuk. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Tom and Linda Thrasher. (Photo: Lisa Gregoire)

  • Tommy Thrasher enjoys his new Hohner panio accordion. (Photo: Patrice Halley)

  • Tommy and Linda Thrasher's kitchen window overlooks the Beaufort Sea. (Photo: Patrice Halley)

  • The Name of Holy Mary Church overlooks the Dempster Highway and the Mackenzie River in the hamlet of Tsiigehtchic. (Photo: Patrice Halley)

With photography by and

Mackenzie Delta area (Map: Steven Fick/Canadian Geographic)

Mackenzie Valley Pipeline

The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline was first proposed in the 1970s to direct natural gas from the Beaufort Sea to markets both in Canada and the United States. Justice Thomas Berger was appointed to head an inquiry to explore the effect the pipeline would have on the physical landscape and the area's residents. When Berger delivered his report, Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, in 1977 he recommended a 10 year moratorium on the project. Within that time, he suggested further studies be conducted to examine the potential impact of the pipeline, as well as ensuring the settlement of local native land claims. Thirty years later the project has regained momentum and is currently awaiting the results of ongoing public hearings and joint review panel decisions.

Mackenzie Delta Area - Oil and gas development (Map: Steven Fick/Canadian Geographic)

How do residents of the Mackenzie Delta feel about the construction of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline?

"People are in overall favour of the pipeline because they see the benefits of diversifying the economy."

— Peter Clarkson
Director of the Inuvik region for the Northwest Territories government.

"It scares me. If you understand it all and are prepared for it, OK. But we're not prepared for it, and there will be so much social impact. Who will be there to take care of that?"

— Mary Teya
Anglican Deacon and Interpreter/Translator.

Environmental impacts

Illustrated above is an example of the impact of resource extraction and development in the north. It includes all past, present and future projects. The red patch around Inuvik shows the community's physical footprint. (Courtesy of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee and Petr Cizek)

The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline will start near Inuvik and extend 1,220 kilometres south along the delta and join with pipelines in Northern Alberta. The planned route crosses more than 500 waterways and runs through heavily forested areas. In November 2004, the advocates of the Mackenzie Gas Project released an Environmental Impact Statement to address the potential problems the construction of the pipeline might cause. Although the report offers solutions to problems such as land erosion, groundwater flow, permafrost, wildlife loss, and protected areas, many critics found gaps in the research. The Pembina Institute noted that the EIS only accounted for one third of the gas fields in the project. Pembina, along with other organizations such as the Sierra Club of Canada and Ecology North, are pushing for the current Joint Review Panel to consider the impact of the pipeline would have on global warming. Their new quest is to have a "green pipeline" that would conform to the Kyoto standards by using renewable, clean energy.

Examples of potential problems from the pipeline's construction:

  • Altering the land's surface could lead to permafrost melt, or conversely, lead to areas more prone to freezing. As a result the ground may experience sagging or sinking and leave increased potential for flooding. Land alteration would also result in a loss of vegetation, potentially eliminating some species.
     
  • The construction of the pipeline will interrupt water flow, not just lakes and rivers, but groundwater as well. Alteration of lakes and rivers could change the quality of the water as well as upset fish habitats. The disruption of groundwater flow can have an impact on the source of freshwater for waterways, but also be a trigger for erosion.
     
  • Protected wildlife areas, such as the Kendall Island Migration Bird Sanctuary, will be affected because the pipeline will run through part of it. For both protected and unprotected areas, the project may disrupt animal habitats. Construction noise may deter the migration patterns of some species and the pipeline itself may act as a physical barrier above ground. Increased animal death is also a cause for concern, as curious animals could be seen as problematic to pipeline workers and therefore killed.
     
  • The construction and use of the pipeline will raise greenhouse gas emissions in Northwest Territories by an estimated 44 percent. In addition, every year gas from the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline is burned, 25 million tons of carbon dioxide will be emitted into the atmosphere.