A Hay River family who have run a fishing lodge on Nonacho Lake for nearly half a century questioned the plan to expand the Taltson hydroelectric dam during a round of public hearings on the project last week in Dettah.
Jean Carter pleaded with members of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board during the first of two days of hearings into the Deze Energy Corporation’s plan to expand the 44 year-old dam, which is located 64 kilometers north of Fort Smith. The 18 MW hydro unit was originally designed to supply power to the Pine Point lead-zinc mine, and currently supplies power to Fort Smith, Hay River, Hay River Reserve, Fort Resolution, and Enterprise. It is owned and operated by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC).
“I want everybody to know the impacts this is going to have on not only Nonacho Lake, but on five generations of people, thousands of fishermen that come up year-after-year,” she said during the start of the public hearings on Thursday.
Deze Energy’s proposal would involve the construction of a new 56 MW hydroelectric station as well as a 554 kilometer-long 161 kV transmission line around the East Arm of Great Slave Lake to the diamond mines in the Lac de Gras area. Deze Energy Corp., a joint venture between the NWT Metis Nation, Akaitcho First Nation and the NWT Energy Corp., want to spend up to $600 million on the expansion.
In a letter sent to the MVEIRB on Jan. 11, Carter laid out a number of environmental concerns with the plan – including the effects of the drawdown on Nonacho Lake, fluctuations in the lake’s water level during construction, possible contamination from the explosives used in blasting, and road access.
Carter’s husband, Merlyn, began flying fisherman into the lake in 1962. At first, visitors were housed in tents. Over time, the lodge was expanded and now boasts six cabins, a store, a guide’s cabin, two showers, an on-site generator to supply power, and 23 boats.
As the only residents on the lake, Carter questioned why their family had not been consulted by the Deze Energy Corp. on their expansion plans. She said the effects of the construction of the original dam in 1967-68 are still visible on the lake – from dead trees on the shoreline to the erosion of sand eskers.
“Over the years we endured the devastation,” she wrote in her letter. “Do we want to see more devastation? No.”