N.W.T. Power Corp. responsible for flooding below Taltson dam, MLA says

N.W.T. Power Corp. responsible for flooding below Taltson dam, MLA says

Record-high water levels below the Taltson dam destroyed wildlife and property this winter, and the MLA for the region says the Northwest Territories Power Corporation is to blame. 

Tom Beaulieu, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, holds the power corporation and its hydro system responsible for the damage, but says the government-owned corporation denies any wrongdoing.

"Something happened that's not normal," Beaulieu told CBC. "I could see that there was really major flooding."

The dam, located approximately 64 kilometres north of Forth Smith along the Taltson River, provides power to Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution and Enterprise.

Beaulieu says this isn't the first time flooding has happened below the dam. He claims water reached similar levels in the late 1960s shortly after the facility was built.

He's convinced there's a leak or an issue with the hydro system's spillway, and wildlife, trappers and property owners in the area suffer the consequences.

"I don't think the beavers and the muskrats made an error in building along the Taltson," Beaulieu said. "It appears as though they were totally flooded so they're dead.

"[NTPC] is saying it's a natural process, I think this started to occur as a result of the dam," he said. 

At least two cabin owners in the area say they've also noticed higher water levels this winter.

One said they're the highest he's seen in more than 30 years, and some of his boats and motors that had been pulled up onto the bank have been damaged.

Beaulieu and a local outfitter approached Louis Sebert, the minister responsible for NTPC, about the issue, but were told the power corporation was not to blame.

"The minister refused to take responsibility," said Beaulieu. "I couldn't believe he actually said that."

Flooding 'not a result of NTPC's operations'

A spokeswoman for the power corporation said its records for December show "historically high" water levels throughout the entire Taltson basin, but that it wasn't the result of the dam.

"During this time there were no changes in NTPC operations compared to other years," spokeswoman Pam Coulter said in an email.

"Operations remained similar to a run-of-river generation facility and in compliance with the terms and conditions of NTPC's licenses and permits."

That includes regulations for protecting the environment and wildlife, she said.

"One of the main benefits of run-of-river hydro operations is that generation has minimal impact on the natural flow of the river," she said. "If water levels are high before the plant, then water levels are high after the plant."

NTPC says the dam does have a natural spillway, but that the amount of spill or flow is determined by the level of the river and not by gates that open or close.

Beaulieu plans on raising the issue during the next legislative session, as the government mulls a massive expansion of the entire Taltson system.