Sustained power outage hits Fort Smith, blips in other areas

Transmission lines in Fort Smith. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Fort Smith residents lost power for much of Thursday evening with supply also disrupted in Hay River, Enterprise, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife.

The NWT Power Corporation said South Slave outages were initially triggered by “windy conditions and a resurgence of forest fire activity near Taltson,” a hydro dam, causing problems on its transmission line.

Within an hour, the power corporation said power in Hay River and Fort Resolution had been restored by switching to backup diesel.

However, what NTPC called “electrical control issues” meant one of Fort Smith’s generators could not be started, requiring extra staff to be called in.



The power corporation eventually said full power had been restored to Fort Smith at 10:20pm, having been out since the early evening.

In Yellowknife, a separate, brief power outage shortly after 6:30pm was caused by a loss of diesel generation at the Jackfish plant, the power corporation said.

Enterprise suffered multiple outages, with an afternoon outage blamed by power distributor Northland Utilities on a tree that fell on the line. The Kátł’odeeche First Nation also lost power.

Power generation is already a sensitive subject, particularly in Fort Smith, were NTPC is seeking a rate increase that would move the price of energy up by more than 20 percent over two years.



The power corporation says Fort Smith customers pay the lowest sums in the territory and an increase is required to meet the cost of supplying electricity, but some residents have challenged that.

At a public hearing last week, residents and community leaders said the power corporation would be better served by lowering rates and bringing more customers on board by expanding the use of electric heat in the community.

Dennis Bevington, a Fort Smith resident and former NWT MP, this week challenged NTPC’s figures regarding the cost of power delivery in an interview with the CBC. The power corporation said it could not replicate Bevington’s results as it was not sure of his methodology.

The Public Utilities Board, an independent panel that assesses rate hike requests, is expected to issue its verdict on NTPC’s application early next year.