Leaders from across many northern communities last week came together on Fort William First Nation territory to witness the signing of a contracting agreement for the Ontario East-West Tie Line Project between Valard and NextBridge Infrastructure. The long-anticipated agreement signals a critical milestone in the development of the Project that will connect the Wawa Transformer Station to the Lakehead Transformer Station near Thunder Bay with an anticipated 2020 in-service date. The Project helps to bring a stable source of electricity for the region and hundreds of high-quality, good paying jobs.
The event also recognized the equity stake of six Northern Superior Anishinabek First Nations, who will share in the economic success of the Project; namely Fort William, Red Rock Indian Band, Pays Plat, Biigtgong Nishnaabeg (formerly Ojibways of Pic River), Pic Mobert and Michipicoten. Together, they have formed a partnership called ’Bamkushwada’. In addition, these six First Nations have created ‘Supercom’, an economic development company to assist in realizing the substantial opportunity for contracting, training and employment related to the Project.
“I can’t overstate the importance and impact that today’s announcements will have on our community and our people,” said Chief Peter Collins of Fort William First Nation and President of Bamkushwada. “We have long fought for this level of infrastructure investment as it will open-up potential for economic growth and security, job training and well-paying jobs well into the future.”
In anticipation of the project, Supercom has partnered with Confederation College to offer a variety of educational programs. These modules will prepare and train over 240 people for employment opportunities in the industry. The partnership between Confederation College and Supercom is not only intended to train people in the community for jobs, but to inspire them to see these opportunities as long-term careers. These programs have also received financial support from government ministries.
Matt Dupuis of Supercom, said; “For large infrastructure projects like this to work, you have to have a balance between regional prosperity, environmental protection and project delivery. We think we got it right. The next step is to ensure that this project is ready to go by 2020. Success depends on it.”
“Today is the culmination of a multi-year partnership with the six First Nations communities,” said Eric Gleason, President of NextEra Energy Transmission, a partner in NextBridge. “Together, we have collaborated to ensure the Project will help to address the pressing electricity needs of the region; releasing potential for future growth. I want to thank our First Nations partners for their leadership and steadfastness and ensure the communities that – as soon as we are given the go-ahead – our shovels are ready.”
“Valard has almost 40 years of history building strong partnerships and relationships with diverse communities across Canada, including in Northern Ontario. As a leader in both Indigenous relations and in safely delivering world class transmission projects, we believe the Ontario East-West Tie Line Project is a perfect fit for our expertise and experience.” Said Adam Budzinski, President & CEO of Valard.
“Equity participation by the six First Nations means that much more of the financial and employment benefits will remain in the region,” stated Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association Vice President, Iain Angus. “We applaud this partnership-based approach taken by NextBridge and Valard and hope that it will become the norm across the region.”
On Aug. 7, 2013, NextBridge Infrastructure was designated by the Ontario Energy Board to develop the Project and to file a Leave to Construct (LTC) application, which was filed on July 31, 2017. While today’s announcement is a recognition of the progress stakeholders and other project proponents have made, next steps of this project are pending.
The Project will consist of the installation of a double-circuit 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line generally paralleling the existing double-circuit 230 kV transmission corridor (the existing East-West Tie) connecting the Wawa Transformer Station (TS) to the Lakehead TS near Thunder Bay, with a connection approximately mid-way at the Marathon TS. The Preferred Route primarily parallels the existing East-West Tie and is approximately 450 km long.