Use less energy this evening in Fort Smith, says power corp after wildfire damages Taltson hydro line

·2 min read
The 18-megawatt Taltson power plant on the Taltson River. The Northwest Territories Power Corporation said it cut power to the facility's transmission line after it experienced a problem likely caused by a forest fire. (Submitted by Darren Campbell - image credit)
The 18-megawatt Taltson power plant on the Taltson River. The Northwest Territories Power Corporation said it cut power to the facility's transmission line after it experienced a problem likely caused by a forest fire. (Submitted by Darren Campbell - image credit)

Fort Smith residents may have intermittent power this evening.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation said in a Facebook post Friday evening that it has found the problem areas as it continues to work on repairing the Taltson transmission line, which was damaged by wildfire.

However, NTPC said all five affected communities – Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Hay River, Enterprise, and K'átł'odeeche First Nation – are still operating on diesel generation.

In Fort Smith, where one diesel generator is still not working, that means the higher demand for power around supper hour or about 6 p.m. could "exceed the currently available diesel generating capacity," the corporation said.

If that happens, the power corporation may have  to rotate power to sections of the community in 30-minute intervals, affecting all electricity consumers in Fort Smith.

"In order to reduce the likelihood of rotating outages being necessary, Fort Smith customers should attempt to limit their electricity consumption over the next several hours," the NTPC cautioned.

Thursday night power interruption

The NTPC said earlier that a forest fire was likely to blame for power outages in several communities in the South Slave region Thursday night.

Doug Prendergast, a spokesperson for the corporation, said the Taltson hydro plant experienced an "interruption" on its transmission line at 5 p.m.

Prendergast said an aerial inspection was carried out Friday morning to determine what caused the interruption — but that it was "reasonable to conclude" it had to do with forest fire activity and the corporation decided to turn the transmission line off last night as a result.

The communities of Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Hay River, Enterprise and K'átł'odeeche First Nation had their power restored, but were running on diesel-powered generators instead.

The corporation posted on Facebook around 7:45 p.m. Thursday night that it had restored power in Hay River. About half an hour later, it said power was restored in Fort Resolution. It wasn't until about 10:15 p.m. that it said power was back on in Fort Smith.

Prendergast told CBC News shortly before noon on Friday it was too early to say when the communities would be shifted back to hydro power. He said the power corporation still had to decide if it was safe to send crews out to make whatever repairs would be needed on the Taltson transmission line.

According to N.W.T. Fire, a forest fire burning in the area is not considered a threat to Fort Smith or the Taltson Dam.

At one point last month, the same fire triggered a precautionary evacuation of workers at the dam and damaged a few transmission lines.

According to the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the north, west and south ends of the fire are currently active.