Wunnumin Lake First Nation celebrates connection to provincial power grid
Tim Brody - Editor
Wunnumin Lake First Nation has become the seventh First Nation community to be connected to the provincial power grid through the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system.
The community was connected to the provincial power grid on September 21.
On October 30, Wunnumin Lake First Nation invited Wataynikaneyap Power, Opiikapawiin Services, government, and other stakeholders to celebrate their grid connection.
“This is a great achievement that will be felt in the community for generations to come,” Wunnumin Lake First Nation Chief Sam Mamakwa remarked in an Oct. 30 media release issued by Wataynikaneyap Power. “Now that our load capacity is no longer restricted from diesel generators, Wunnumin Lake has been able to connect our new John George Martin Memorial School, which has space for students from junior kindergarten to Grade 10. We have upgraded our teachers’ accommodations and built a new subdivision of 25+ housing units which are just waiting for final assessment procedures.”
“Wataynikaneyap Power is majority-owned by an equal partnership of 24 First Nations, in partnership with Fortis Inc. and other private investors, to build and operate the ‘line that brings light’, a $1.9 billion dollar infrastructure project. The 1,800 km Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line will ultimately connect 17 remote First Nations to the Ontario power grid, removing their reliance on diesel-generated electricity. Many of these generators are at capacity and not able to connect to new infrastructure,” Wataynikaneyap Power stated in their news release.
Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power, stated, “This celebration is extra special to me. Thank you to Wunnumin Lake First Nation leaders and Elders, particularly Elder Rod Winnepetonga, for their constant advocacy and strong support. This project wouldn’t exist without the guidance and persistence from Wunnumin Lake First Nation. Congratulations to Wunnumin Lake First Nation on this long overdue and needed achievement!”
Wunnumin Lake First Nation is accessible by ice roads in the winter and plane year-round. “The Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system connects the Wunnumin Lake community distribution system to the Ontario grid through a total of 604 km of line and five substations, originating from its Dinorwic Substation. Wunnumin Lake will be served by Hydro One Remotes Communities Inc. (HORCI) for the local distribution of electricity,” Wataynikaneyap Power explained.
“Miigwech to our partners and contractors who brought the First Nations’ vision to fruition. We can accomplish great things when we work together,” said Eliezar Mckay, First Nation LP Board Chair.
Frank Mckay, Board Chair for the Wataynikaneyap Power General Partnership (WPGP), stated, “We listened to what our People directed us to do – bring clean, reliable power to the north, with infrastructure majority-owned by the First Nations. Congratulations Wunnumin Lake, thank you to the leadership and community for your ongoing support and guidance!”
“It’s heartening to see that the connection to the main electricity grid in Ontario is already bringing benefits to the people of Wunnumin Lake,” said David Hutchens, President and CEO, Fortis Inc. “On behalf of the Fortis team, I’d like to congratulate Chief Sam Mamakwa on this special occasion.”
“Wataynikaneyap Power is the largest grid First Nations grid connection project in Canada. Today’s celebration marks an end to Wunnumin Lake First Nation’s reliance on diesel-generated electricity. It will provide the community with clean and reliable electricity to power homes, schools, water treatment plants and critical infrastructure. By connecting First Nations to Ontario’s provincial power grid, this Indigenous-led project will bring reliable electricity to community members, while fighting climate change and creating jobs. Congratulations to Margaret Kenequanash and the many Indigenous leaders driving this important work forward,” stated Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor).
Todd Smith, Minister of Energy, concluded, “Congratulations to Wunnumin Lake First Nation and Wataynikaneyap Power on this historic achievement – bringing reliable, clean and affordable electricity to the community. Our government is proud to support this First Nation-led project that is connecting remote communities to Ontario’s grid, lighting the way for new community development opportunities, including connecting your new school to the grid and ensuring a better quality of life for all.”
Nine additional First Nations are planned to be energized in 2023-2024 with Wataynikaneyap continuing to work with McDowell Lake First Nation, the 17th community, with the goal of becoming grid connected in the future.