Ontario Construction News staff writer
Construction has officially started on a new 450-kilometre north shore electrical transmission line that will connect the Wawa and Lakehead transfer stations.
At an estimated cost of $777 million, the NextBridge East-West Tie Project will build a double-circuit, 230-kilovolt transmission line from the Wawa Transformer Station (TS) to the Lakehead TS in Shuniah, near Thunder Bay, Ontario, with a connection approximately mid-way at the Marathon TS.
Construction of the long-awaited project is expected to be complete by the end of 2021.
The $777-million energy infrastructure project is one of the largest investments into the Northwest’s electricity system in decades and will provide access to energy to support new economic growth in the region for years to come.
Not only does the line have to be constructed, but Hydro One’s transformer stations around the horn of Lake Superior will be upgraded.
One of the many delays happened when the previous Liberal government reopened the bidding process to allow Hydro One to submit a proposal in 2017.
NextBridge has been working closely with Indigenous communities, municipalities, landowners, community members and businesses over the past six years to bring the $777-million electrical infrastructure project through to construction.
It will bring reliable power to the Northwest and improve economic development, with the mining industry, forestry industry.
Construction of the line will be broken into 11 segments, with a targeted in-service date by the end of 2021. Six Indigenous communities along the north shore of Lake Superior formed the Bamkushwada consortium, creating a 20 per cent equity stake in the project.
The communities also created Supercom, an economic development entity to pursue contracting and training opportunities.
“We are delighted to now have shovels in the ground and to move this project forward with our partners,” said Jennifer Tidmarsh, project director and president of NextEra Transmission Canada said at a Sept. 26 ribbon cutting ceremony.
“I’m personally grateful for the relationships the NextBridge team and I have formed as we’ve moved through regulatory process, and to know that the people of Northwestern Ontario will finally get the long-term reliable energy they need to grow and prosper, I’m so proud to be a part of this project.”
NextBridge was joined by representatives of Indigenous communities on the project right-of-way. Six Indigenous communities nearest the project have formed Supercom Industries, which will ensure that employment and economic benefits flow to local Indigenous communities.
“The East-West Tie project offers an example of how industry and Indigenous communities can work together to build infrastructure while providing local economic benefits and respecting First Nation culture,” said Chief Peter Collins of Fort William First Nation and President of Bamkushwada, owners of Supercom Industries.
“Along with growth opportunities this project brings to the region, it has also helped us build capacity for community members that provide benefits long after the project is complete.”
The Province of Ontario has also played a significant role in ensuring the project will be completed. “The East-West Tie represents a critical step in the right direction to fulfill the electricity needs in Northwestern Ontario,” said the Hon. Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
“Last January, our government took action to ensure that NextBridge was selected to build East-West Tie project, and less than a year later it is great to be back to celebrate the ground-breaking. Congratulations to NextBridge and the Bamkushwada Limited Partnership on their success and the start of their construction today.”
Construction of the approximately 450-kilometre, double-circuit, 230-kilovolt electricity transmission line from Shuniah to Wawa will continue until late 2021.