Oct 14, 2020


Major mining projects in the northwest will become more attractive in the coming years thanks to a massive hydro project linking northeastern with northwestern Ontario.  
Work is continuing on an approximately 450 kilometre, double circuit, 230 kilo-volt (kV) electric transmission line that will connect Northeastern Ontario with the Northwest along the north shore of Lake Superior. The primary goal is to provide more affordable energy and boosting regional power capacity for long term economic growth, such as mining.
Known as the East-West Tie Project, it will extend from the Wawa Transfer Station, and connect to the Lakehead Transfer Station in the Municipality of Shuniah, just east of the city of Thunder Bay. It will connect at roughly the halfway point to the Marathon Transfer Station, and will move through communities such as White River, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Pays Plat First Nation, Dorion, and Nipigon.
The project has a price-tag of $777 million, one of the largest investments in the electricity system in Northern Ontario in decades, and for the most part, will follow the existing East-West Tie transmission corridor. However, the updated version will avoid some of the more sensitive nature and conservation areas, most notably Pukaskwa National Park.
Construction of the long awaited project officially began in the fall of 2019, and the goal is to have it completed by the end of 2021.
The project is being advanced by NextBridge Infrastructure, and will include transmission structures, insulators, conductors, overhead shield wires, and optic fibre ground wire and grounding.
The right of way, or cleared area, for the project will be up to 64 metres, or 210 feet wide generally speaking, but could be larger in some spots.
Access roads, both temporary and permanent, will be constructed for operation and maintenance. Temporary storage yards, laydown yards, offices, and camps will also be required.
NextBridge is a partnership between affiliates of NextEnergy Canada, Enbridge, and OMERS Infrastructure. It was established to participate in the Ontario transmission market.
Alberta based construction company Valard is the contractor for the project.
The East-West Tie Project has actually been in the works since 2012, when NextEra bid for the opportunity to develop new power transmission in Northern Ontario. The provincial government identified the need for an update of the EWT in 2010 as part of a long-term energy strategy.
NextEra was selected to be the proponent in 2013, but concerns over an increasing price tag of over $700 million led the province to re-open the bidding in 2018.
Hydro One then submitted a proposal claiming it could build the line at a more reasonable cost.
With growing impatience with the Ontario Energy Board the recently elected Doug Ford government, buoyed by Kenora-Rainy River MPP and Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, issued an Order In Council (OIC) and a ministerial directive designating NextBridge as the partner company for the project in January of 2019, thus ending Hydro One’s hopes of building the line. The government cited significant preliminary work and consultation with First Nation communities completed previously by NextBridge as a major factor in their decision.
The final environmental assessment was approved by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks on March 21, 2019.
Rickford was on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony held on October 2, 2019. The project consists of 11 different segments, or work-fronts. Four employee camps were also built to house construction staff.
The work will move along the corridor in phases, very similar to highway and road construction. Right of way and access roads are built, and surveys are conducted to confirm the tower locations. The materials get delivered, foundations and anchors for the towers get installed, and the towers are then set into place with either cranes or helicopters.
The Covid-19 pandemic slowed work on the project, as NextBridge suspended work in early April. They took time to develop a plan to keep workers and communities as safe as possible before worked slowly resumed in mid-May.
NextBridge aims to have strong community relations, Indigenous relations, and have a Community Investment Program, where applicants in communities along the right of way can apply for financial support for projects, initiatives, or events.NextBridge says the project will provide an estimated $200 million in economic benefits to local Indigenous communities.
As the project was being developed, six First Nation communities along the corridor formed the Bamkushwada Limited Partnership, an Indigenous economic consortium that owns Supercom Industries Ltd, a general partner corporation pursuing contracting, employment, and training opportunities.
On February 20 of this year, Rickford announced a $1.5 million dollar government investment in Supercom over the next three years for training for over 170 Indigenous tradespeople who will work on the East-West Tie project.

Tags: Northern Ontario / New Projects / All Articles