This 6 MW, two-part project is 100% fully owned and controlled by the Pic River First Nation. The project's design leverages Pic River's significant experience in the hydro industry and the associated aspects of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR)/Ministry of the Environment (MOE)/Federal environmental assessment (EA) requirements, third-party issue mitigation, community consultation, and joint venture negotiations. Pic River is undertaking extensive endangered species measures to ensure that impacted species – such as the Lake Sturgeon – and is ensuring the highest degree of environmental accountability throughout the project's lifespan. Both sites have readily accessible transmission capacity and will add significantly to Pic River's mix of renewable energy technologies.
The experience of the Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation shows what twenty years of work in the power sector can do.
Having participated in the Twin Falls hydro facility with developer Rapid-Eau Technologies, a facility commissioned in 2001 and ownership of which it subsequently took over entirely, the band is now prepared to undertake two more hydro projects on the same river entirely on its own. High Falls and Manitou Falls, 3.2 and 2.8 MW respectively, will represent a total investment of $35 million or more, for projects that will be owned and developed entirely by the Pic River band. So far, the band has spent close to a million dollars of its own money, reinvested from other hydro revenue, in preparatory work. It also owns the Umbata Falls facility on the White River. All the projects are or will be run-of-river.
In addition to internal financing, the preparatory work has been financially assisted by AREF, to date the only program the band has sought funding from.
Although others have expressed frustration with the various provincial and federal funding programs, Leclair says AREF is “an appropriate support mechanism, aimed at First Nation participation in these projects.” He notes that, “the template is fairly inflexible, but that said, it’s fairly clear as to what they expect to be delivered. So long as you understand what the program wants, and can work within those guidelines, it shouldn’t be a problem. Ontario has led the way in transforming aboriginal involvement in energy, and the OPA has played an integral role in that.
It seems to be a common experience, however, that some flexibility is needed in getting underway. In Pic River’s case, “Our ability to be flexible stems from our access to our own equity,” notes Leclair. “Our projects aren’t beholden to the program, and that really changes the experience. I don’t think the program is particularly onerous. But we also have twenty years of experience in this industry. These are not surprises to us.”
In fact, Pic River is also developing a partnership with five other First Nations to build, own and operate a transmission line, which will be able to carry power from several other power developments underway to the grid. More information on this undertaking is not available at present.
Location: High Falls and Manitou Falls, two sites on the Pic River
Size: 3.2 and 2.8 MW respectively
Project cost: $35 million or more.
Project partner: No general partner at present, no current plans for one.
Project structure: Wholly owned by the Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation
Financing: Not yet begun
Government-sourced funding: AREF to date.
• Site study field work begun March 2010
• EAs for the two facilities awaits completion of fisheries data, expected in 2012. Water levels in 2010 were at a record low, so that another year’s worth of data are wanted for a better picture of normal flow.
• Awaiting successful Economic Connection Test
Suppliers and contractors: Hatch is working on the EA. Chant Construction is doing design and engineering. In discussion with Canadian Hydro Components forequipment.
Connecting line: existing transmission facilities at Twin Falls will be extended.
“Power procurement policy has just gotten better and better,” says project liaison Norm Jaehrling. “In 2000 ours was a marginal project, but with the RESOP, then the FIT, the aboriginaladders, and so on, now it’s viable. There’s been a substantive commitment to First Nation equity participation. These are real game-changers. Energy is one area where development can really make a difference to the community. We’re not talking about impact agreements with mining companies – which have their role – but we’re at the table, not as an interest to be managed, but as equity owners and active participants.”
Unlike the experience others have reported, Jaehrling has no issues with the funding programs. “We found that they would adjust to our stage of development. Some have said AREF is more for early stages, but we were well into our development, and they were able to work with us to capture costs that we had yet to incur. We’ve had a very good experience,” he said.
Consultation has also been very successful, Jaehrling says. “We’ve done more public consultation, we believe, than any other hydro project ever has in Ontario. We started speaking with stakeholders before the formal EA began – cottagers, recreational users, tourists, trappers, neighbouring First Nations. The extent and depth of our consultation is reflected in the fact that when we went to the final public consultation, where the opportunity exists for anyone to request a bump-up to full EA, nobody did. That’s very unusual for a hydro project.”
Location: two sites on the White River, Gitchi Animki Niizh and Gitchi Animki Bezhig
Size: 10 MW and 8.9 MW respectively
Project cost: about $135 million
Company name: Pic Mobert Hydro Power Joint Venture / Gitchi Animki Energy Corporation
Project partner: Regional Power Inc.
Project structure: Equal partnership, in ownership and revenue.
Financing: Typical for this type of project. Negotiations underway.
Government-sourced funding: AREF approved and OFINA guarantee is in process, but will await close of project financing.
• Development rights to the site first awarded in 1993. Pic Mobert FN began pursuing the project in 2000, development begun in 2004.
• EA completed
• FIT contract awarded under the first round, March 2010
• Final design underway, tender for balance of plant to be released this fall.
• Construction to begin first quarter 2012
Suppliers and contractors: Discussions underway. Regional Power is project manager.
Connecting line: 20 km. Connection capacity is committed.
Lower Mattagami complex redevelopment, Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) / Ontario Power Generation. The Moose Cree story is perhaps the embodiment par excellence of the First Nation experience with resource development summarized here, beginning in 1992 with the old-style approach that, as Chief Norm Hardisty puts it, “destroyed our lands, displaced our people, did a lot of things without our consent. … In 1992 we weren’t even allowed to use lawyers. Governments weren’t interested in serious discussion.”
The intervening nearly two decades have made quite a difference. The landmark legal cases over the intervening years have helped a lot, Chief Hardisty notes, and now of course the duty to consult is clearly set out in exacting detail. Even so, there’s a difference between pro forma compliance and full engagement as a business partner. OPG has offered a formal apology for past conduct, under Ontario Hydro as it was at the time, that convinced the band council and community (after some twenty separate consultations with band members on and off reserve) that OPG is sincere.
“Now, it’s stated right at the beginning of any discussion with developers: you have to respect our treaty rights. This time around, OPG accepted the principle right away,” says Hardisty. “We’ve talked with them quite a bit over the last two or three years, gave them a good lesson on how our culture operates, and every time [we sat down at the table] it got better.” Carlo Crozzoli, Vice President of Hydro Development at Ontario Power Generation, concurs.
“We’ve taken a proactive approach to dealing with some of these historic grievances,” he said in a phone interview October 13. “As it’s well recognized, in the past a lot of the hydro resource in the province has been developed without due consideration to the aboriginal people who live there, and they had impacts on the traditional territory and way of life. This is a new paradigm for doing hydro development in the north, for sure.”
As examples of the new kind of regime, a the Ontario Ministry of the Environment formed the Mattagami Extension Coordinating Council in May 2010, with equal representation from the First Nation and Ontario government, to oversee and regulate the project to deal with environmental impacts, and with the ability to order additional restoration projects. The MCFN will have the majority of members on this council. An Environmental Coordinator has been hired, at OPG’s expense but who reports to MCFN. At the federal level, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) must also ask Aboriginal Peoples and the public for their opinion and advice. DFO is to prepare a First Nations Consultation Plan and a Public Consultation Plan.
Crozzoli also points to a substantial local benefit created by employment on the four sites. “ Right now at the end of September there are over 250 aboriginal employees working on the projects, almost a third of the total workforce,” he notes. “That’s a huge success story from our perspective. There’s a very extensive training and apprenticeship program we put people through. The EA that governs the project required a minimum of 200 person-years of First Nation employment – we’ll exceed that within two years of the project’s beginning, and it’s a five-year project. These are core skills – we’re building capacity for a large pool of people in the north, who can use the skills for other projects. It’s a great opportunity for OPG to partner, and it smoothes the project development process.”
Moose Cree First Nation has created a corporation, Amisk-kodim, that is overseeing $200 million worth of construction contacts, with all the economic benefit that entails for the community.
“Back then there was no such thing as ownership by First Nations,” says Hardisty. “Now we’re moving away from the shackles of dependency. There’s a lot of First Nations going through drug and alcohol abuse, suicides – if we want a healthy community we have to have a healthy economy.”
Location: Four generating stations (Little Long, Smoky Falls, Harmon and Kipling) on the Mattagami River, about 70 kilometers northeast of Kapuskasing
Size: The redevelopment will add 438 MW of new capacity to the existing four stations, almost doubling the total to 924 MW.
Project cost: $2.6 billion
Company name: MCFN / OPG Partnership
Project partner: OPG
Project structure: Moose Cree First Nation is targeting 25% ownership of the capacity additions to the four sites, contingent on financing being completed by the 2014-2015 in-service date; financing is expected to be complete before that.
Financing: Accessed OFINA loan guarantee. May access AREF for future projects.
• Initially proposed by Ontario Hydro in 1992, rejected by the Band council in 1994.
• Negotiations resumed in 2005 at the initiative of Moose Cree First Nation, with another round in 2007, and ratified by the Moose Cree community in May 2009.
• Construction begun in 2010, completion expected in 2015.
Suppliers and contractors: Under the Amisk-oo-skow Agreement, Moose Cree businesses will have priority to supply the project, as long as they can do so at a fair price. The MCFN has set up its own company, Amisk-kodim Corp, to facilitate and implement business contracting opportunities. Amisk-kodim Corp will be 100% owned by Moose Cree citizens.
Pape Salter Teillet, a law firm based in Toronto and Vancouver, is legal counsel.
Connecting line: The four facilities are of course directly on the existing transmission line.
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Commissioned for commercial operation in early November 2008, the Umbata Falls Generating Station was developed through an innovative partnership between Pic River and InnergexGroup. Development rights for the site were granted by the Minister of Natural Resources to Pic River, after extensive regulatory compliance, environmental assessments, and public consultation. The generating station delivers approximately 109,000 annual megawatt hours of renewable energy to the Ontario grid – enough to meet the annual power needs of 12,500 Ontario homes.
Recognizing the unique hydrology of the White River, the recreation uses of the area, and the incredible natural beauty of the generation site, the Umbata Falls Limited Partnership made a commitment to sustainably develop this 23 MW site and implemented a Scenic Flow Adaptive Management Plan for visual impact mitigation. Efforts were undertaken to ensure that traditional uses of the site – including berry picking, hunting, and fishing – would not be adversely impacted.
This unique 4.9 MW development on the Kagiano River, Twin Falls GS, was acquired by the Pic River First Nation in 2009. The site boasts a series of falls and rapids stretching over 660 meters, with a total drop of 54.3 meters. Our journey began as a minority equity partner and more recently, Pic River negotiated a purchase of ownership interest with the other members of the limited partnership and assumed full ownership of the facility, making it the first generation station fully owned and operated by a First Nation in Ontario.
The Wawatay Generating Station was completed in 1992, marking the culmination of years of planning for Pic River for this old logging site on the Black River. The project was jointly developed with Sunridge Power and marks the first station planned, negotiated, and developed by Pic River. Over 60 band members played a significant role in the building and construction stages, laying the ground for a weir to collect water and a massive 148-foot drop to guide water into the station.
Environmental obstacles were mitigated wherever possible; for example, Pic River took extra measures to ensure that newly hatched trout species were maintained in a special backwater away from the primary outflow area until they were mature enough to join the river's natural course. Pic River owns a significant minority equity stake in the project and heralds it as the first true community economic development success story.
The first power station - Auguasabon Generating Station – has been operational since 1948 and came about through a series of meetings by the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario that called for increases in power generation to meet rising industrial demand. Pic River is currently pursuing the development of a 10 MW generating station in partnership with the Pays Plat First Nation.
Representing a total energy potential of 20-30 MW, Chigamiwinigum Falls lies within the traditional territory of the Pic River First Nation and falls under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada's Pukaskwa National Park. The development would allow Pic River to attain true community energy self-sufficiency, as some of the electricity generated at the site would power local community energy needs and allow us to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels for heating and cooling. Energy self-sufficiency would be complemented by economic self-sufficiency, as these own-source revenues would be allocated for community projects like housing, education, and infrastructure. It would also allow our partner Pukaskwa to earn revenue for local programming through a proposed revenue sharing opportunity - an important benefit as Parks Canada programming and scientific research budgets across the country continue to be trimmed. Although Pic River has not secured the rights to develop the site, we are confident that our progressive development scheme presents a truly innovative method of public/private/Aboriginal partnership.
For more detail information of these and other Pic River Energy projects please visit http://www.picriverenergy.com/projects/