Thursday, December 16, 2010

N.W.T. hydro proposal goes back to review board

The Taltson hydroelectric expansion proposal has faced opposition from Dene in Lutselk'e, N.W.T., who do not want power lines to cross the Lockhart River, which they consider to be a sacred area. (CBC)

A proposed major hydroelectric expansion project in the Northwest Territories is going back to a review board, after federal Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan rejected the board's recommendations.

Duncan said he is not prepared to approve Dezé Energy Corp.'s $700-million Taltson expansion project based on the assessment submitted by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, which completed its environmental assessment of the proposed work in August.
In a letter to the board, dated Dec. 10, Duncan said the scope of the board's review on the project is not complete, particularly on the issue of power lines from the Northwest Territories Power Corp.'s Taltson River dam to the territory's three diamond mines north of Yellowknife.
Duncan said the review board made its recommendations without knowing what route the power transmission lines will follow, raising major questions about the expansion project's overall environmental impact.
"The report fails to fully assess the potential impacts of a transmission line as a necessary part of the development, and therefore, the assessment of the development is incomplete," he wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CBC News on Tuesday.
Line route a contentious issue
The proposal to expand the 44-year-old Taltson dam, located about 56 kilometres northeast of the Alberta-N.W.T. border, is being spearheaded by Dezé Energy, which is a joint venture between the Northwest Territories Energy Corp., the Akaitcho First Nation and the N.W.T. Métis Nation.
The joint venture wants to supply the diamond mines with hydroelectricity from the dam, so the mines could cut down on their diesel use.
Dezé Energy initially wanted to run a 700-kilometre transmission line from the dam directly to the diamond mines, crossing the Lockhart River by the eastern arm of Great Slave Lake.
But that proposal has been strongly opposed by the Lutselk'e Dene First Nation, who say the transmission lines would run through an area considered to be sacred to them.
Dezé Energy has said alternative routes that have since come up would cost much more to execute than the Lockhart River proposal. Read more here.

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