Kingfisher Lake First Nation, located 350 km north of Sioux Lookout, is the latest community to be connected to Ontario’s electrical system thanks to the work of Wataynikaneyap Power.
The Watay Power Project aims to provide 17 First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario with power for the first time by mid-2024, connecting them to the provincial electricity grid and replacing the use of diesel generators – which costs Canada about $90 million annually and are at capacity.
“Access to reliable energy will lead to many improvements for our people and the community,” says Kingfisher Lake First Nation Chief Eddie Mamakwa.
“Schools, households, and businesses have been negatively impacted by frequent power outages. Improvements in healthcare, education, food security, and technology will no longer be constrained by the limited capacity of the diesel generators,” he adds.
Chief Mamakwa says the community has turned off their diesel generators, and notes that grid connection was vital for residents as Kingfisher Lake has plans to build a new subdivision and a new school in 2023, which will be served by the new power line.
“The First Nation-led Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project is a prime example of what can be accomplished through strong, meaningful partnerships,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
“Not only will this bring economic benefits and energy certainty to the community of Kingfisher Lake First Nation, but it will also improve quality of life and open the door for new opportunities to the region," he adds.
Kingfisher Lake First Nation becomes the third community with power from the project.
Pikangikum was the first community to receive power back in December 2018. In August of 2022, a line between Dinorwic and Pickle Lake was completed – bringing power to the North Caribou Lake First Nation community by October 2022.
“Congratulations to Kingfisher Lake First Nation and Wataynikaneyap Power on this incredible milestone,” says federal Minister of Indigenous Services Canada and Thunder Bay MP, Patty Hajdu.
“This massive, First Nations-led project has been years in the making and will pave the way for more investments into cleaner sources of energy, while improving the quality of life of community members in Kingfisher Lake,” she adds. “I am excited to see more of these milestones in other communities as they get connected.”
The Watay Power Line is the largest Indigenous-led infrastructure project in Canada and the most far-reaching First Nations grid connection in Ontario's history.
The company is equally owned by 24 First Nation communities, who received a $1.34 billion loan from the province to help with construction costs in 2019, after a $1.6 billion federal investment in 2018. By 2049, the community will completely own the line’s infrastructure.