Federal and territorial politicians gathered Wednesday agree the $1.2-million injection of cash into the Taltson hydro expansion project is just a start.

“Though today only marks the first step in this project, it is a very important one,” says NWT Premier Bob McLeod. 

The Taltson system provides power to the South Slave communities of Fort Smith, Hay River, K’atl’odeeche First Nation, Fort Resolution and Enterprise. The expansion would connect the NWT’s hydroelectric system to the Slave Geological Province and the rest of Canada in three phases.

Phase 1: Connect the Taltson to the North Slave hydro system and add 60 megawatts of capacity.

Phase 2: Establish an energy corridor from Taltson to the Slave Geological Province, an area which Minister of Infrastructure and Industry, Tourism and Investment Wally Schumann says has the most significant mineral development anywhere in Canada.

Phase 3: Connect with the southern Canadian energy grid, either to Alberta or Saskatchewan. Schumann says this could either be used to import or export energy depending on future needs.

The money committed Wednesday will be spent in the next few months. Premier McLeod says it will be used to establish a business case for the overall project.

“With this money, it will allow us to sit down, dust off the previous information and further work on new technology and also work on a business case involving government partners.”

The next steps would be three years of studies and business planning, at the end of which a much larger investment would likely be needed from the federal government. Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and International Trade Dominic LeBlanc says the feds have ways to finance a big project like this if everything looks good from an environmental, business and economic standpoint.

“We’re not naive to the idea that the Government of Canada will have to be the major partner and frankly we’re excited about the potential of this project.”

The $1.2-million is the combined total of $480,000 from CanNor and $120,000 from the GNWT for feasibility and engineering studies, as well as $619,950 from Natural Resources Canada and Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada for Indigenous engagement.

Minister LeBlanc and NWT MP Michael McLeod hinted more money is coming in the spring, but didn’t specify when or how much this investment might be.