Campobello Island’s mayor says NB Power hasn’t lived up to a promise to station a truck on the island in anticipation of power outages.
Harvey Matthews feels his community has been “forgotten” by the provincial energy utility after the island’s nursing home ran off a generator for more than 24 hours during the Christmas holidays.
Matthews says shortly after he was elected as the island’s mayor in 2021, he struck a “verbal agreement” with NB Power to position a truck on the island if weather takes a turn and a power outage is likely.
If there are outages across the province, the small island in the Bay of Fundy is likely among the first to lose it, Matthews says.
But, he says, the energy utility hasn’t lived up to the promise.
On Dec. 23, a portion of Campobello Island— along with large swaths of the province— lost power for over 24 hours.
The outage wasn’t widespread across the island, but Campobello Lodge, the island’s 30-bed nursing home, lost power.
“To me, that’s an emergency,” Matthews said.
The nursing home has a backup generator, but it nearly ran out of fuel after running for over a day, Matthews says.
Marc Belliveau, spokesperson for NB Power, said the energy utility agreed to have crews on the island during adverse weather events “whenever possible.”
But, he added, NB Power indicated that might not be possible in the event of a province-wide outage, which was the case on Dec. 23.
The mayor says he tracks weather conditions, and calls the energy utility when the wind gets high enough and a power outage seems likely, but “they’ve never held up their end of the deal yet.”
Belliveau said during the most recent storm, there were two outages on Campobello Island and one outage on Deer Island.
“We had a vehicle on Deer Island as the only way to access Deer Island is by ferry and the ferry was shutting down due to high winds,” he said via email.
Belliveau said NB Power made contact with the customers that were out of power on Campobello Island, and both had generators and indicated they had sufficient fuel.
“We ensured power restoration was complete before that fuel supply ran out,” he said.
But about a week after that outage, a transponder fire meant the nursing home lost power again, this time for 18 hours.
The nursing home’s generator was running low on fuel, but was bailed out by a contractor visiting the island who luckily was carrying fuel, Matthews says.
“This is why we need a truck here ASAP,” he said, “we’ve got a limited supply of fuel.”
Campobello Island residents typically need to cross into Lubec, Maine, to fill up on gas and other essentials, as the island doesn’t have its own gas station.
Accessing Campobello Island isn’t always straightforward.
The island is typically accessible a few days per week via a private ferry that typically only runs in the summer, but since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been running throughout the winter, weather-dependent, thanks to government subsidies.
Otherwise, the island is accessible via a 50-mile drive through Maine, which involves crossing the U.S.-Canada border twice.
Belliveau said NB Power will “continue to work closely with the mayors of the Fundy Islands to discuss their concerns and to offer the best service possible.”
But, he added, “at times, decisions have to be made about where our resources can have the greatest immediate impact on restoration efforts.”
Matthews says he is trying to schedule another meeting with NB Power and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs to address the issue.
By Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 06, 2023