New power gen­er­a­tion plant opens near SRF

Kapuskasing Northern Times - - FRONT PAGE - LEN GIL­LIS

North­ern On­tario’s new­est hy­dro-elec­tric power source was cel­e­brated Thurs­day with the open­ing of the Peter Suther­land Sr. Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion which is lo­cated on the Abitibi River near New Post Creek, roughly 75 kilo­me­tres north of Smooth Rock Falls.

The sta­tion is named in hon­our of a lo­cal trap­per who once op­posed the old On­tario Hy­dro com­pany over their plans to build more hy­dro-elec­tric dams on North­ern rivers.

The new gen­er­a­tion sta­tion was ac­tu­ally com­pleted ear­lier this year, on March 31. Con­struc­tion for the $300-mil­lion project was within bud­get and the plant was com­pleted ahead of sched­ule.

It had been un­der con­struc­tion for nearly three years and has been one of the largest con­struc­tion projects in North­east­ern On­tario. It is a part­ner­ship be­tween On­tario Power Gen­er­a­tion (OPG) and Coral Rapids Power (CRP) a com­pany owned by the Taykwa Tag­amou Na­tion (TTN).

Thurs­day’s open­ing event brought to­gether dozens of OPG ex­ec­u­tives, com­mu­nity lead­ers and mem­bers of the TTN First Na­tion, pre­vi­ously known as the New Post First Na­tion.

Among them was Jeff Lyash, the pres­i­dent and CEO of OPG, who said he was more than im­pressed with what he called the re­mark­able progress of build­ing the new 28 megawatt fa­cil­ity on time and with­out over­spend­ing.

Thurs­day’s open­ing cer­e­mony was just as much a cel­e­bra­tion of the Indige­nous cul­ture as it was a cel­e­bra­tion of com­plet­ing a sig­nif­i­cant en­gi­neer­ing and tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ment in such a re­mote area of North­ern On­tario.

Drum songs were per­formed. A smudge cer­e­mony held. There was also the tra­di­tional pipe cer­e­mony.

“The rea­son why we do a pipe cer­e­mony is be­cause when you’re do­ing some­thing spe­cial, when you make changes to the land, you’ve got to hon­our the an­ces­tors who lived here be­fore us,” said TTN mem­ber Char­lene Echum.

As the pipe was passed from el­ders to com­mu­nity lead­ers to guests and work­ers, Mike Martelli, the pres­i­dent of Re­new­able Gen­er­a­tion and Power Mar­ket­ing at OPG re­marked he too was im­pressed with the new fa­cil­ity and con­grat­u­lated the group on their suc­cess.

“A project thirty years in the mak­ing, has cul­mi­nated in a new hy­dro-elec­tric sta­tion ca­pa­ble of pow­er­ing 25,000 homes and busi­nesses with clean and re­new­able power,” said Martelli.

The sta­tion is pow­ered by New Post Creek, which sits on a height of land above the fa­cil­ity, just east of the Abitibi. Wa­ter is col­lected by a huge earthen dam, in a 170-hectare head pond, and then di­rected to a pair of pen­stocks that drives the wa­ter down into twin 14MW tur­bines in the pow­er­house be­side the river.

The thirty-year time­line men­tioned by Martelli refers to a bit of the tur­bu­lent his­tory of the area with OPG’s pre­de­ces­sor, On­tario Hy­dro.

Taykwa Tag­amou chief Dwight Suther­land re­called that back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Moose River / James Bay coali­tion was formed when On­tario Hy­dro was propos­ing new dams and hy­dro sta­tion up­grades along the Moose, Abitibi and Mattagami Rivers.

“The coali­tion came out of all that,” said Chief Suther­land. “Back then Hy­dro wanted to dam up a lot of these rivers that fed into the Moose River. So as part of that coali­tion, all that devel­op­ment was stopped,” he said.

Peter Suther­land Sr. was a mem­ber of the coali­tion that gave a voice to the Indige­nous peo­ple of the area. He was born in 1915 at New Post Creek when it was a Hud­son Bay Com­pany op­er­a­tion, and worked much of his life as a trap­per in the area. He died in 1998.

Chief Suther­land, who is a grand­son of Peter Suther­land Sr., said the op­po­si­tion from the coali­tion wasn’t be­cause the First Na­tions peo­ple were against hy­dro devel­op­ments. It was be­cause they were liv­ing in poverty. But the rivers were a re­source that could change that, he said.

“They said the First Na­tions had to play a part of this devel­op­ment, be­cause our peo­ple had signed a treaty with the Crown,” he said.

The peo­ple of the TTN are now one-third own­ers of the new gen­er­a­tion sta­tion.

“Com­ing from that state of poverty to cre­at­ing wealth is a huge step for us,” said Chief Suther­land.

Dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase of the plant, from 2015 to the present, roughly 50 of the 200 jobs dur­ing the peak pe­riod, were done by TTN mem­bers. In ad­di­tion, more than $50-mil­lion in sub­con­tracts were awarded to TTN joint ven­ture busi­nesses.

The new sta­tion will be op­er­ated re­motely by OPGs north­east­ern oper­a­tions con­trol fa­cil­ity in Tim­mins. Main­te­nance work will be per­formed by tech­ni­cians posted to the nearby Abitibi Canyon OPG oper­a­tions.

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