Thunder Bay

Pikangikum and Lac des Mille Lacs First Nations join Wataynikaneyap Power

Pikangikum First Nation and Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation joined Wataynikaneyap, the First Nations-led power project on Thursday, bringing the number of First Nations communities who are equal owners in the project to 22.

First Nations-led power project numbers 22 communities, will provide stable and safer source of electricity

Margaret Kenequanash, chair of Wataynikeyap Power, says extending the power grid to remote northern communities is a "transformational project." (Jody Porter/CBC)

Pikangikum First Nation and Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation joined Wataynikaneyap, the First Nations-led power project on Thursday, bringing the number of First Nations communities who are equal owners in the project to 22.

"Relying on expensive, environmentally-unfriendly diesel fuel to provide power for basic needs like food, shelter and water, as well as limited generating capacity, has come at a huge price for our communities," said Margaret Kenequanash, Chair of Wataynikaneyap Power.

Kenequanash called the project "transformational" and said that First Nations ownership will ensure responsible development across traditional homelands.

Many communities, including Pikangikum, currently live under electrical load restrictions, which means new homes cannot be connected to the grid, economic development is restricted, and communities often face rolling blackouts.

"It is critically important for the community to be connected to the Ontario power grid as soon as is reasonably possible," said Pikangikum First Nation Chief Dean Owen.

"Local social services will be able to function normally and support families in need. Real economic development will finally be possible, particularly in the resource development sector," Owen said. "The environmental contamination at the diesel generator plant will finally be cleaned up. Our clear vision is that Pikangikum will be a safer and healthier place."

Pending permitting, approvals and a cost sharing agreement between the federal and provincial government, construction on the power line is expected to begin in 2018.

A recent report from the Ontario Power Authority said getting 21 First Nations off diesel generation and onto the provincial power grid will save a billion dollars over 40 years.

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