An RCAF Hercules aircraft in Fort McMurray in August. Photo: Submitted
A diesel generator that couldn’t reach Fort Good Hope because of this summer’s low water will instead be flown from Whitehorse via Hercules aircraft next month.
The Sahtu community gets its power from three diesel generators that, combined, provide up to 1.23 megawatts of electricity.
The NWT Power Corporation had hoped to replace one of those units with a fresh generator sent by barge, but water levels on the Mackenzie River have been so historically low that not all resupply barge sailings made it.
“The unit is past the recommended hours for replacement. Therefore, it is important to get the unit in and replaced right now rather than waiting for delivery on the winter road,” the power corporation stated by email on Tuesday.
Winter roads in much of the NWT generally don’t operate until late December or January.
Getting a generator to Fort Good Hope earlier means phoning for a Hercules.
An Alaskan company will provide the heavy-duty aircraft, the power corporation said, and the generator will be flown from Whitehorse to Fort Good Hope in early November.
Doing so will cost $220,000 more than the estimate for the barge trip, the power corporation stated, adding: “With winter arriving and operational time for this genset running out, NTPC determined it was prudent to spend the additional $220,000.”
“NTPC’s commitment is to supply reliable, continuous power to the community,” an emailed statement continued. “Due to the low water event, airfreighting the unit was considered the best option to maintain this commitment.”
The need to airlift a generator is a reminder of the impact NWT communities are facing from changing conditions around them.
Widespread drought and low water this summer played a role not only in the inability to supply communities using traditional barge drops, but also in the territory’s unprecedented wildfire season.
The Sahtu community of Norman Wells, to the south of Fort Good Hope, has renewed a call for an all-season road to be built connecting the region to the rest of Canada. NWT Senator Margaret Dawn Anderson recently visited Norman Wells to discuss that project, which has been a top GNWT priority for years but has nowhere near the funding needed.