Hydro One personnel were out in full force Thursday at the Kaministiquia Community Centre hosting an information session for rural residents who are being affected by the proposed, preliminary Waasigan Transmission Line route.

Approximately 15 members of the Hydro One Waasigan project team took in some pointed questions regarding the loss of homesteads, water shed contamination, electric radiation exposure as well as if they would accept the alternate route proposed by residents of the Neighbours on the Line group out of Kaministiquia.

Hydro One director of project delivery, Sonny Karunakaran, who was also in attendance for the Neighbours weekly meeting a week ago Wednesday, said the reception Hydro One representatives received was a mixed bag.

“It’s quite a varied reception as you can imagine from a project like this,” said Karunakaran, who has been at his director’s job just as the Waasigan Transmission Line project was beginning to be rolled out. 

“There’s been a number of people that have been trying to find out a lot of information. There’s a lot of people that want to test information that they have.

“We’ve brought a broad spectrum from around the project team here to be able to answer those detailed questions. Some people have questions around what this means as far as a line going across parts of their property. Some things around whether there would be towers on their property. For some people, it’s an impact across a corner of their property, but what does that mean truly to them and how does Hydro One proceed ahead on that basis? We’ve been able to have those discussions with them and give them opportunities to tell us a little bit more around how they wish to be engaged as we move forward as well.”

The approximately 375-kilometre Waasigan power line will run from the Municipality of Shuniah to Dryden parallel to an existing power grid with the preliminary preferred route having been selected earlier this year.

Since April of 2019, the electric company had looked at four different routes before coming up with their preliminary January decision and are taking a close look at the alternate route proposed by the Neighbour’s group.

“The route that we have right now is a preliminary preferred route, it is not finalized,” Karunakaran said. “Can the route change? Absolutely. Are we taking the new route seriously? Absolutely.

“The proof point and demonstration of that is the fact that we’re utilizing the same criteria as what we have utilized through engagement and consultation, what we’ve heard from the municipalities, the public, the Indigenous peoples, the assessment of the natural environment, the balancing of technical and cost. We have to balance all these factors. We’re using exactly the same criteria to assess the route that’s been put forward.”

The Neighbours on the Line alternate route would go from Shuniah to north of Dog Lake, south of Upsala, follow along the Sapawe Road to the southeast of Sapawe and follow an abandoned hydro line into Atikokan.

Neighbours on the Line organizer/communications director Michelle Hamer, who was in attendance and livestreaming the information session, still doesn’t feel all the people in her community are being heard.

“Well, we always have to have hope,” Hamer said. “I’ve been asking community members how they feel because I know how I feel, but I was asking ‘Do people feel heard?’ and it seems to be a 50-50 split.

“Quite a few of the residents said ‘No, we don’t feel heard’ because (Hydro One) is basically saying the same, scripted corporate narrative over and over again, even though we know they didn’t start talking to us in 2019. On their placard it has 2020 and then there’s a three-year gap and it says 2023.

“We feel like (Hydro One) is just reiterating the same story. On the other hand, some of the gentlemen said they did have what they felt was some real engagement about the alternative route.”

Karunakaran said the transmission line will produce many benefits to the region including economic growth, development, job opportunities, electrical reliability, renewable generation and load growth pertaining to the mining industry.

Hydro One’s time frame to complete the development work on the project is tentatively scheduled for the end of 2024.

By John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 26, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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