Six Indigenous communities, nestled along the north shore of Lake Superior, root deeply in the beloved land they’ve called home for generations. This is where nature’s symphony and human needs meet as transmission structures of the East-West Tie transmission project stand proudly amongst the green forestry.
Operational for over a year, these structures symbolize prosperity for the neighboring communities, providing jobs for more than 300 Indigenous community members during construction and supporting regional growth with the increased availability of electricity.
“My most memorable and proudest moment would have to be the signing of the fifty-year agreement between NextEra Energy and Pays Plat First Nation,” said CEO, Pays Plat First Nation, John Szura. “They respected the First Nation, the traditions of the First Nation and all our inherent rights attributable to the land.”
NextEra Energy Transmission, LLC, is the leading competitive transmission company in North America with operational or development transmission projects in 11 states and Canada. As part of a partnership with Enbridge, OMERS and Bamkushwada, this project brought relief to a burning demand for stable electricity running from southern to northwestern Ontario in addition to answering the inherent call for job opportunities in the region.
“We're a small community and we don't have too much in the way of our own service revenue, but now we have another pocket of money every year.” said Szura. “Benefits through the construction of the line was employment through band members and community members.”
During construction, Supercom Industries LP, a 100% Indigenous-owned partnership overseeing hiring and procurement, formed around the East-West Tie transmission project. With about 4 million person-hours of labor needed, it ensured that Indigenous workers constituted over half the peak project workforce.
Creating sustainable jobs for the community was one responsibility of retired Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins, who said it was a joy to watch a sea of safety monitors, contractors and laborers work together not only during the project, but afterward too.
“Following completion of the project, many of these workers transitioned into careers with other professional organizations,” said Collins.
The impact of this project extends with more than $200 million in economic benefits in addition to annual funding for community initiatives. White River Mayor Tara Anderson Hart said it provides access to energy while supporting new economic growth in the region for generations to come.
“Those young folks are now able to stay close to home with good jobs. Their families will be supported and then as they raise their children, they'll grow up in that same kind of culture where hard work ethic and safety is a virtue,” Hart said.
Today, this project stands as a monumental investment in Northwestern Ontario's electricity system with it being one of the largest investments in decades. Zero outages were recorded during the first winter online despite the region experiencing wind gusts exceeding 90km/h and over 7-feet of snowfall.
“Empowering our communities with reliable energy is not just about electricity, it’s about energizing our economies and paving the way for the future,” said Jeff Damen, director of development for NEET Canada.
Collaboration with local leaders has ensured that the project's benefits extend far beyond just reliable electricity, but also to support economic development, community safety, culture and the environment in the right-of-way region.
“NextEra Energy Transmission Canada continues to have an impact in our community,” said Hart. “We’re still growing as new employees and an entire new industry was brought to us. We're going to see that benefit for many years to come, for as long as this line is going.”