Hunters and trappers along the Taltson River have been left dealing with wreckage caused by high water levels that flooded cabins and damaged trapping equipment.
Last week, Arthur Beck, a trapper from Fort Resolution, posted photos on his Facebook page that show trapping equipment along the Taltson River submerged under ice and damage to a cabin.
There's ice "right up to the windows," he said, adding everything from skidoos and motors to blankets are "done."
"It's really sad … all our traps are frozen. All our equipment is done. I mean, we're not rich people," he said.
"It's hard. "You just barely make enough to survive."
Beck, who says he's hunted, fished and trapped along the Taltson all his life, is pointing the blame at the Taltson Dam, about 113 kilometres upstream.
He says the dam released water three times this year — in October, November and December 2020.
CBC requested an interview with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC), but the request was denied.
In an email, Doug Prendergast, communications manager for NTPC, also would not clarify whether any water was released from the Taltson dam during the time frame specified by Beck.
Instead, he told CBC News that there weren't any operational activities — planned or unplanned —"that could have resulted in higher downstream water levels."
Prendergast said the hydroelectric facility has a minimal impact on water levels and flow on the Taltson River, with a maximum generation capacity of 18 megawatts, characterizing the facility as "quite small."
The corporation acknowledged that the river saw peak flows in December and January, but that they "were not a result of flow releases from Taltson," he said in the email.
"The apparent peaks may be related to the historically high natural flows resulting in occasional debris/ice jams, turbulence or surging at or above the WSC station that would affect the raw data readings."
Damage to animal habitats, business
Beck says the photos of the damaged cabin and equipment only show part of the problem.
He guesses water rose around 10 to 12 feet. On top of the equipment locked under ice, he says it has caused damage to the habitats of beavers and muskrats.
"Poor animals, nobody speaks for them," he said.
Beck also said his brother was trying to start a tourism camp in the area, but now that dream is over too.
"He was almost finished. And now he's flooded … he's done."
Beck says the good news is that people haven't been spending all year at cabins, like they used to.
"Because if there were people out there, they would have had a hard time," he said. "It would have been a major disaster."
He says it's not the first time this has happened — water levels also rose similarly high back when he was a child.
Too early for blame: MLA
Steve Norn, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wıı̀lıı̀deh, says he's been getting calls from constituents since Beck shared his photos of the destroyed properties.
Norn has also been in touch with Shane Thompson, the N.W.T.'s environment minister.
He says he hopes there will be environmental experts involved at some point.
"[A] hydrologist perhaps to give us a real sense of what's happening, because there could be a variety of factors, not just environmental, it could be the dam."
Above all else, Norn says he will work with Thompson to ensure there is support for those affected by the flood.
"It's a bit early on yet. We'll know more in the coming days," he said, "It's upsetting to me and a lot of my constituents in the area."