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North shore First Nations want in on Sault-to-Sudbury power line development

Eight communities see economic development opportunity in transmission projects
(Northern Ontario Business file photo)

Eight First Nations along the north shore of Lake Huron want to be development partners with Hydro One in any future power line construction on their shared traditional territory. 

The First Nation communities of Batchewana, Garden River, Thessalon, Mississauga, Serpent River, Sagamok Anishnawbek, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, and Wahnapitae have formed a consortium to advance a 50-50 partnership with Hydro One on any new transmission line development.

The First Nations have submitted their support to the Ministry of Energy for Hydro One to develop two new transmission line projects between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

Last October, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released a report identifying the electricity needs to support growing industrial demand for power in the Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury area over the next decade. 

The IESO’s recommendations involve two power projects along the north shore and a third transmission line between Wawa and Timmins. A group of four First Nations wants the development contract on that one, plus a rival bid from Wabun Tribal Council. 

In the Sault-Sudbury proposal, eight First Nations have submitted that Hydro One be formally designated the license to develop the two transmission lines by the Ministry of Energy. 

One involves a 75-kilometre, 230-kilovolt transmission line that will run from the Mississagi Transformer Station, west of Sudbury, to the Third Line Transformer Station in Sault Ste Marie.

The second is a 205-kilometre, 500-kilovolt transmission line that will run from the Hanmer Transformer Station in Sudbury to the Mississagi Transformer Station in the Blind River area.

Actual construction is a ways off. The estimated capital costs for all three would be in the range between $1.25 billion to $1.53 billion. The in-service date is 2029 to 2030.

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Hydro One launched its First Nations equity model in 2022, providing First Nations with the opportunity to invest as equal partners in new large-scale transmission projects.

In a statement, Batchewana First Nation Chief Mark McCoy views this opportunity as “self-determination through economic development.”

“The opportunity to build strong partnerships with industry, including Hydro One allows us to advance that initiative. We have asked the Ministry of Energy to proceed as soon as possible with the formal designation of the two transmission lines to Hydro One to enable us to continue to advance our partnership negotiations.”

 In July, the Ministry of Energy posted the priority lines in the Environmental of Registry of Ontario, proposing to designate the lines to Hydro One. The posting was opened for public consultation and comments for a period of 60 days, which ended on September 8.

“We are committed to participating in Hydro One’s equity partnership model and securing revenue sharing benefits that can support economic stability and improved well-being for years to come,” said Mississauga First Nation Chief Bob Chiblow.

“Hydro One is grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership on these infrastructure projects in the northeast, and to explore how we can learn from each other," said Penny Favel, vice-president of Indigenous relations, sustainability as well as the president-CEO of Hydro One Remote Communities Inc.

“Hydro One is committed to advancing meaningful action on economic Reconciliation so that First Nations can lead and benefit from transmission lines in their territory for generations to come."