Kingfisher Lake First Nation in northwestern Ontario has been connected to the provincial power grid for the first time.
Nov. 8 was the actual date when the switch was thrown by Wataynikaneyap (Watay) Power to “energize” the remote community.
Nov. 23 was chosen as the date to celebrate the occasion attended by federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, provincial Energy Minister Todd Smith and various dignitaries.
Kingfisher Lake, located 350 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, is on the route of the planned 1,800-kilometre-long power corridor, now under construction, to connect 17 remote communities to the grid. These communities were previously reliant on local diesel-fuelled generators.
This $1.9-billion infrastructure project is a partnership between Indigenous-owned Watay, Fortis and private investors.
A Watay news release said the grid connection to Kingfisher Lake is necessary to power up the growth needs of the community which includes a new subdivision and a school opening in the fall of 2023.
“Access to reliable energy will lead to many improvements for our people and the community,” said Kingfisher Lake Chief Eddie Mamakwa in a statement.
"Schools, households, and businesses have been negatively impacted by frequent power outages. Improvements in healthcare, education, food security, and technology will no longer be constrained by the limited capacity of the diesel generators.”
Construction of the Watay utility corridor began in 2018.
Kingfisher Lake is the third First Nation connected to the provincial power grid since construction of the utility corridor began in 2018. Pikangikum was connected in December of that year. North Caribou Lake was hooked up to the grid this past October.
The entire line will be fully operational by mid-2024.
“It has taken many years and we have reached a significant milestone today,” said Watay CEO Margaret Kenequanash in the release. “With a clear mandate from our Chiefs and support from our partners, connection to the provincial power grid brings reliable, clean energy to our communities through infrastructure majority-owned by 24 First Nations.”