Wataynikaneyap Power Successfully Energizes Bearskin Lake First Nation

Frank McKay at Watay Power Announcement
Frank McKay at Watay Power Announcement

Northern Ontario Community Connects to Provincial Power Grid

BEARSKIN LAKE – Business – Wataynikaneyap Power is thrilled to announce a significant milestone in the electrification of Bearskin Lake First Nation, a community nestled in Northern Ontario. On July 7, 2023, the community celebrated its successful connection to the provincial power grid, marking the end of its reliance on diesel generators as its primary power source.

The Power of Connectivity

The Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system played a pivotal role in this achievement, linking Bearskin Lake’s distribution system to the Ontario grid via an impressive 739 kilometers of transmission lines and six substations, originating from its Dinorwic Substation. For local distribution of electricity, Bearskin Lake will continue to be served by Hydro One Remotes Communities Inc. (HORCI). Located over 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Bearskin Lake remains accessible year-round by plane and during the winter season via ice roads.

A Bright Future Beckons

Bearskin Lake Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin emphasizes the transformative impact of this grid connection, stating, “Grid connection is necessary to power the future needs of the community, including our future water and wastewater community upgrades. Reliable power enables us to grow. We have multiple houses and buildings ready for connection, as we no longer have to worry about being at max capacity for power.”

Joining the Grid, Forging Ahead Enduing Diesel Dependence

Bearskin Lake becomes the fourth First Nation to be energized through the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system. An ambitious plan is in place to energize five more First Nations in 2023, with the remaining seven slated for connection in 2024.

A Vision Realized

Eliezar Mckay, First Nation LP Board Chair, reflects on the fulfillment of a long-standing vision, remarking, “This vision has been almost 20 years in the making – to bring reliable power to our communities with infrastructure owned by the First Nations. We are now seeing the results of the First Nations’ resilience to keep this Project moving ahead.”

A Partnership for Progress

Wataynikaneyap Power is majority-owned by a collaborative partnership of 24 First Nations, in conjunction with Fortis Inc. and other private investors. This alliance has successfully brought to fruition a groundbreaking $1.9 billion infrastructure project known as the ‘line that brings light.’ The Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line, spanning 1,800 kilometers, is set to connect 17 remote First Nations to the Ontario power grid, thereby eliminating their dependence on diesel-generated electricity.

Celebrating Progress

Frank Mckay, Board Chair for the Wataynikaneyap Power General Partnership (WPGP), rejoices in the ongoing success of this unprecedented project, stating, “It is great to celebrate the continued progress of this unprecedented project,” remarks Frank Mckay, Board Chair for the Wataynikaneyap Power General Partnership (WPGP). “The people told us to do it, we listened and we did it with their full support and consent. Congratulations Bearskin Lake First Nation!”

A Promising Path Forward

David Hutchens, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fortis Inc., emphasizes the positive impact of this connection, noting that it will open doors to new opportunities within the community. With over 94% of the Wataynikaneyap Project now complete, the successful connection of all 17 First Nations to the grid is eagerly anticipated.

A Path to Sustainability

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor), underscores the significance of this Indigenous-led project in providing reliable electricity, combating climate change, and creating jobs for First Nations communities.

“The Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project is the largest grid connection project in Canada. Today’s announcement will ensure Bearskin Lake First Nation can transition away from diesel power and access clean, reliable electricity. By connecting First Nations to Ontario’s provincial power grid, this Indigenous-led project will bring reliable electricity to community members, while fighting climate change and creating jobs. Thanks to Indigenous leaders, work continues and we won’t stop until every First Nations community is connected to the grid,” states the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor).

Government Support

The Honourable Todd Smith, Minister of Energy, commends Wataynikaneyap Power for bringing clean, reliable, and affordable electricity to Bearskin Lake First Nation, highlighting the positive impact on community development initiatives such as water treatment, new housing, and economic development.

Todd Smith, Minister of Energy, remarks, “I congratulate Wataynikaneyap Power on this incredible achievement in bringing clean, reliable and affordable electricity to Bearskin Lake First Nation. Our government is proud to support this first-nation led project which is enabling community development opportunities in Bearskin Lake First Nation, such as water treatment, new housing and economic development.”

About Wataynikaneyap Power

Wataynikaneyap Power is a licensed transmission company majority-owned by a partnership of 24 First Nations in collaboration with Fortis Inc. and other private investors. The company is regulated by the Ontario Energy Board and is dedicated to connecting remote communities to the electrical grid. Wataynikaneyap Power will develop, manage construction, and operate approximately 1,800 kilometers of transmission lines in northwestern Ontario. For more information, visit www.wataypower.ca.

About First Nation Limited Partnership

First Nation Limited Partnership (FNLP) is a collaborative effort of 24 First Nations in Northwestern Ontario working together to connect 17 remote communities currently powered by diesel generation stations. FNLP was established in 2015 to hold ownership and control of the participating First Nations’ interest in Wataynikaneyap Power LP.

About Fortis

Fortis is a well-diversified leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry, serving customers across multiple Canadian provinces, U.S. states, and Caribbean countries. As of June 30, 2023, Fortis boasted revenue of $11 billion and total assets of $64 billion. For additional information, visit www.fortisinc.com.

About Opiikapawiin Services

Opiikapawiin Services LP (OSLP) is a partnership of 24 First Nations in Northwestern Ontario, primarily responsible for administering projects and programs for Wataynikaneyap Power PM through a service agreement. OSLP supports community engagement, readiness, education, training, business readiness, stakeholder engagement, communications, and capacity building. For more information, visit www.oslp.ca.

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