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Duchesnay Creek Bridge wins project of the year

The Ontario Works Association declares Nipissing span as one of the best builds of 2021
Duchesnay Creek Bridge opening~Aug 20 21~Photo David Briggs  (2)
The Duchesnay Creek Bridge, which opened last August, was awarded one of the best projects in Ontario from 2021. | Photo David Briggs

In late May, the Duchesnay Creek Bridge was awarded project of the year by the Ontario Public Works Association. The ceremony was held in Mississauga, where the association presented 18 Project of the Year awards, and Duchesnay Bridge was the winner in the $10 million to $50 million category.

Located on Highway 17B at the border of Nipissing First Nation and North Bay, the Duchesnay Creek Bridge opened to traffic last August, marking a milestone for Nipissing First Nation, as it was the first major project undertaken by the then newly formed Nipissing Miller construction company.

Winning the award “was a bit of a surprise,” Nipissing Chief Scott McLeod admitted, who, along with Counc. Jane Commanda, attended the awards ceremony. “It was our first real project in our general partnership with Miller (Group), so it was a good way to kick off our business partnership.”

Technically, the award was granted to the Ministry of Transportation, “but at the end of the day, we’re the ones who did the work and installed the bridge,” the chief explained, adding the award “was well-deserved on Nipissing First Nation's part.”

This marks the second award bestowed on the project. In April, the bridge was recognized by Ontario Wood WORKS!, an initiative of the Canadian Wood Council.

McLeod detailed how it wasn’t easy to get the contract for the work: “We fought hard to get the procurement from the Ontario government” to proceed, he said. As the project was “within the boundaries of our First Nation,” the chief and staff did their best to ensure the work contract was awarded to them, even though the ministry “had doubts.”

“It was quite satisfying for us to have won the award to show exactly what Nipissing First Nation can do,” McLeod said. “We argued that the work should go to Nipissing First Nation,” and when that was granted, “we showed what we’re capable of.”

Receiving such an honour for a first project is giving Nipissing Miller some extra momentum. This summer, the company already has two contracts to complete, and McLeod expects more to come.

“We’re going to continually build on this and seek other contracts and secure more opportunity,” for the First Nation, he said.

The chief also noted that forming businesses like Nipissing Miller and the recently opened Nbisiing Power, are “pieces of the puzzle” Nipissing First Nation is putting together “as we move toward being more sovereign in our investments.”

These businesses are “all part of our bigger plan to be more independent,” McLeod emphasized, allowing the First Nation “to shape our own future and destiny.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.