Government needs to prevent chronic power outages in Whati: N.W.T. MLA

MLA Jackson Lafferty is raising alarm about persistent power outages in Whati. He says the government needs to quickly move forward on plans to connect Whati to the Snare Hydro System.

Whati experiences persistent power outages, despite being less than 100 km away from major hydro plant

Lafferty said residents are 'confused' by the NWT Power Corporation’s plans to improve electricity in Whati, as talks have been underway for over 15 years, yet the community still experiences major issues with power stability. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Last month, Whatì, N.W.T., suffered a major power outage that lasted over 20 hours. According to MLA Jackson Lafferty, power outages are a common occurrence for the community. 

"There's some irony in all of this," Lafferty told the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

"Get this, Mr. Speaker … Whatì is the closest community to the Snare Hydro System in the entire territory," yet it is powered by failing diesel generators.   

The Snare Hydro System provides power to Yellowknife, Behchokǫ̀ and Dettah, but not Whatì. 

Lafferty said residents are "somewhat confused" by the NWT Power Corporation's plans to improve and stabilize electricity in the community.

Years of discussion

Over the past 15 or so years, he said numerous different plans have been discussed.

Whatì residents are concerned about chronic power outages, he says, especially amid winter months, when temperatures drop substantially. 

"We need to prevent these type of events happening in the future," Lafferty said. 

He asked Minister of Infrastructure Diane Archie, who is also responsible for the NWT Power Corporation, how far along the department is in developing a transmission line that would connect Whatì to the Snare Hydro System.

Archie said the territory is in the planning phase now.

"Right now, we're advancing planning, consulting and engaging in the activities, which involves the construction of the 60-kilometre transmission line, to be able to replace the diesel electricity generation," she said.

Archie added that there's a meeting being held April 17 with the Tłı̨chǫ government to discuss the creation of a working group, which would help advance the project.

But Lafferty says people are tired of the "talks on the way, and the consultation that the minister alluded to."

"There needs to be an action-oriented process," Lafferty said. 

Lafferty asked how much it would cost for Whatì to be connected to the Snare Hydro System. 

Archie said that at the moment, they did not have an estimate, because they're finalizing the routing of the transmission line, but they're working with the Tłı̨chǫ government to move forward on an estimate. 

Archie was unable to provide an update on where that estimate is, but said that within a year they will be in the position to provide that information and submit a federal funding application.