Wildfires near small hydro plants along Northwest Territories’ Snare River

Rampant wildfires in Canada’s Northwest Territory are threatening infrastructure associated with the four small hydroelectric plants that make up the Snare hydro system.

The province’s government said last week that the wildfire, which began in a 10-hectares area, had grown to cover more than 1900 hectares and was “out of control”.

Northwest Territories Power Corp., which owns the Snare hydro system, said at that time it was monitoring its assets — primarily including 150 kilometers-worth of transmission lines in the Yellowknife, Behchoko and Dettah area — but that local fire crews had done a good job of protecting the four generating sites themselves.

More recently, fires about 10 kilometers south of the Snare system were reported to be encroaching an airstrip that serves the facility. The Northwest Territories Department of Environment and Natural Resources said earlier this week that it would perform a burnout — that is, setting an intentional fire inside a control line to consume fuel between the edge of the wildfire and designated stop point — to protect the airstrip.

The Snare system includes the 8.5-MW Snare Rapids, 7.4-MW Snare Falls, 4.3-MW Snare Cascades and 10.15-MW Snare Forks hydropower plants.

NWTP reported earlier this week that staff remained at each facility, but that it would remove them should safety become an issue. The utility added that it would use helicopters to transport personnel should the airstrip become inaccessible.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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