Taltson dam expansion questioned by fishing camp owner

A proposal to expand the Taltson hydroelectric dam in the Northwest Territories came under fire Thursday by a family that has run a sport fishing camp on Nonacho Lake for decades.

A proposal to expand the Taltson hydroelectric dam in the Northwest Territories came under fire Thursday by a family that has run a sport fishing camp on Nonacho Lake for decades.

Jean Carter and her family, who have run the Nonacho Lake Fishing Camp for about 50 years, presented a number of environmental concerns to the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, which held public hearings Thursday in Dettah, N.W.T.

"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," Carter said, adding that her family has not been consuted on the expansion.

Concerns over water, fish

"If they take a break from all the activities, this is going to greatly impact on us. And that has to be recognized."

The proposal to expand the 44-year-old Taltson dam is being spearheaded by Deze Energy Corp., a joint venture consisting of the N.W.T. Energy Corp., the Akaitcho First Nation and the N.W.T. Métis Nation.

But the Carter family told the review board they are worried about flooding and changes to water levels and fish populations at Nonacho Lake should the expansion go ahead.

Carter said her family has watched as the original Taltson dam flooded the lake about 40 years ago, forcing them to move their buildings onto higher ground.

Officials with Deze Energy said it does have plans to monitor wildlife in the expansion area, but it is still working out what it would do if the dam makes a big environmental impact on the region.

Deze Energy also said lake levels are not expected to change much from current levels.

First Nation opposes power line

The Lutselk'e First Nation opposes the construction of a power line across the Lockhart River, which Dene in the area consider to be sacred.

"The Desneth'che and Kaché area will not be developed. The entire area is off-limits," said Tracey Williams, the First Nation's director of land and environment.

Lutselk'e Chief Steven Nitah shared with the board a legend involving the "old lady of the falls," who is said to live in a spectacular waterfall on the Lockhart River.

"She said, 'Tell the people not to come visit me just so that they could look, out of curiosity. Only those that believe in me, believe in what I stand for, should come,'" Nitah said.

The Taltson dam, located about 56 kilometres northeast of the Alberta-N.W.T. border, was built in 1966 to supply hydroelectric power to the now-defunct Pine Point lead and zinc mine.

The N.W.T. Power Corp. currently owns and operates the dam to provide power to the communities of Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and Enterprise.

Expanding the dam, as well as building a power line that would connect the facility to the N.W.T.'s diamond mines, is estimated to cost between $500 million and $600 million.

If the proposal is approved, construction is expected to last three years.