Whati’s second major power outage in less than two months is exhausting residents’ patience in the Tlicho community.

Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty said March 30 in the legislative assembly that Whati experienced an outage in February that lasted longer than 20 hours.

“It was a level-three power failure, the Power Corporation’s highest level of emergency. The culprit was the community’s out-of-date diesel generators,” Lafferty said. “Just consider if it was -50 C or -60 C. Good thing it was -15 C and -20 C at that time.”

Second major outage

Lafferty might be getting a sense of déjà vu after he reported the same problem on Feb. 3 when he described a 20-hour rotating power outage that hit Whati on Jan. 13-14 after two of its three generators failed.

“When power goes out, maybe it’s an accident, but if two go out, it’s neglect,” he said in the assembly at the time.

Grid hook up needed

On March 30, Lafferty said the solution to the remote community’s power woes is for it to ditch the old diesel generators and get hooked up to the Snare Hydro grid, which is about 54 km east of Whati.

Its proximity to the power station is a “sad irony” Lafferty said, as it is the closest community in the NWT to the complex but is not yet connected to it.

“Yellowknife, on the other hand, which is on the Snare Hydro grid, is four times the distance, and they are on the system,” he said.

Addressing Diane Archie, minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC), Lafferty asked for an update on the possible connection of Whati with Snare Hydro or with a transmission line directly into the community.

Power line talks ongoing

“Right now we’re advancing, planning, consulting, and engaging the activities, which involves the construction of the 60-kilometre transmission line to be able to replace the diesel electricity generation,” Archie responded.

“I do want to note that we are actively working with the Tlicho government on this project and are meeting this week to be able to discuss the creation of a working group.”
Time for action

Lafferty said Whati is tired of the discussions and consultations over the transmission line and mini hydro initiative, which he said has been talked about for more than 20 years.

“I would like to know whether that (working group) will be established during the life of the 19th Assembly? We still have two and a half years. I would like for this to be expedited because the community wants to prevent this from happening, the 20-plus-hour power outage. Is that possible?”

Upcoming funding application

Archie said her department hopes to finalize the routing of the line project with the Tlicho Government. Once that is completed more technical work would be done to assess the cost of the line and prepare a funding application to the federal government’s Investing in Canada infrastructure program.

She said the costs weren’t yet known but hopes to have an application ready within the next 12 months.

On Feb. 3, Archie said a new generator is set to be installed within the year in Whati, which is expected to improve service reliability. The power plant in the community isn’t scheduled to be replaced in the next five years.

The Minister is set to meet with the Tlicho Government in Behchoko on April 17 to discuss the Whati transmission line as well as the Whati access road off Highway 9, Highway 3 safety issues, the Slave Geological Province Corridor and the mini-hydro project in Gameti.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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