Ontario Construction News staff writer
Wataynikaneyap Power LP and the Government of Canada have signed agreements formalizing support for the $1.6 billion Northern Ontario Grid Connection Project.
Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power, along with Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, Gary Smith, executive vice-president of Fortis Inc. and the FNLP executive council, gathered in Thunder Bay on Monday to recognize the significance of finalizing the agreements that will connect 17 diesel-dependant First Nations communities to Ontario’s power grid, the first of which was connected in December 2018.
The Wataynikaneyap Power partnership consists of 24 First Nations who are majority owners and leading this project in partnership with private investors led by Fortis Inc.
“Wataynikaneyap Project will connect remote First Nations to a clean accessible energy and set a parameter of how we do business,” Kenequanash said in a statement. “Finalizing the definitive documents will enable all partners to work within the intricate business model agreed to by both levels of government, First Nations and our partners. Meegwetch to Canada for providing the funding to Ontario on behalf of the First Nations and for supporting this very important project. It is a huge milestone for the 24 First Nation partners of Wataynikaneyap Power.”
The funding announcement, which was the culmination of years of ongoing negotiations and discussions, will result in eliminating dependency on costly diesel generation, supply clean and reliable energy to thousands of residents. It will also create new economic opportunities including an estimated 769 jobs during construction and close to $900 million in socio-economic value.
“Clean sources of energy are vital not just for the protection of the environment, but also for the health and safety of community members. Significant work continues to connect diesel-dependant First Nations to Ontario’s power grid, and we look forward to celebrating the connections of First Nations communities to the provincial electricity grid by 2023,” said Indigenous Services minister Seamus O’Regan.
The project includes building approximately 1,800 kilometres of transmission lines in Northwestern Ontario to connect remote First Nations communities to the Ontario power grid. It will reinforce the existing transmission grid to Pickle Lake and will expand grid service north of Pickle Lake and Red Lake to ultimately connect 17 First Nations communities. Pikangikum First Nation was the first community connected to the Ontario power grid, via the Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project in December, 2018.