Published: August 23, 2017
BY NSN STAFF
Pikangikum First Nation will soon be connected to Ontario’s power grid, thanks to a $60 million investment from the federal government.
“This is a historic time for the residents of Pikangikum First Nation to see this project finally begin as it will do more than just provide reliable electricity to the community,” said Kenora MP Bob Nault on Aug. 17.
“It will reduce reliance on diesel, open up new economic development opportunities, and facilitate social infrastructure and programming for things like affordable housing, early learning, childcare, and community health care facilities.”
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett made the funding announcement last week. Wataynikaneyap Power will receive the funding to build a 117-kilometre grid line from Red Lake to Pikangikum First Nation.
The government says connecting the community to Ontario’s power grid will provide clean energy, while making an important contribution to the health and safety of community members and boosting the First Nation’s economic development opportunities.
Construction on the grid line will begin in fall 2017, with completion expected in fall 2018.
“When I visit Pikangikum First Nation I hear about how critical this grid connection is to them. This will greatly benefit the community for generations to come,” added Nault.
Pikangikum First Nation currently uses a diesel generating station to supply electricity. This station is operated by Pikangikum as an Independent Power Authority. It is about 38 years old and has long surpassed its life expectancy as a critical infrastructure asset.
Wataynikaneyap Power is a licensed transmission company, equally owned by 22 First Nation Communities (51%), who partnered with an experienced industry leader, Fortis (49%), with the goal of connecting 17 of its signatories, including Pikangikum First Nation, to the provincial grid in Northwestern Ontario.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation applauded the announcement last week with Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler noting:
“Many of our First Nation communities still rely on diesel generation for electricity, and Watay Power is designed to significantly reduce the financial burden for First Nations while eliminating the health, safety and environmental impacts associated with diesel. This is a significant step to help Pikangikum advance their community plan for growth and development. We look to our federal Treaty partner to continue with infrastructure investments that will improve health and social conditions including housing, fire prevention services, and access to clean drinking water.”