Valard president and CEO Adam Budzinski, right, and Transmission NextEra president Eric Gleason sign the East-West Tie Line Project contracting agreement on Dec. 12 as Northern Superior Region chiefs and other officials look on at the Dilico Anishinabek Family Care building in Fort William.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY – Six Northern Superior Region communities are looking forward to economic development and employment opportunities after NextBridge Infrastructure and Valard signed a contracting agreement for the Ontario East-West Tie Line Project on Dec. 12.

“It’s a great day for our six partnering First Nations that are in on the East-West Tie and developing this project to where it is today,” says Fort William Chief Peter Collins. “All of the communities have been working with Valard, so today is an exciting day for all of our communities and great opportunities will come out of it.”

The six communities — Fort William, Red Rock Indian Band, Pays Plat, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, Pic Mobert and Michipicoten — developed two partnerships, Bamkushwada Limited Partnership and SuperCom Industries, to benefit from the East-West Tie Line.

“Valard will be working closely with SuperCom to maximize economic participation by SuperCom, proximate First Nation contractors and proximate First Nation members in the construction and execution of the project,” says Adam Budzinski, president and CEO of Valard. “To solidify and represent this partnership, the two entities have created a joint logo. Valard and SuperCom will create a management committee to ensure Indigenous participation is maximized on this project. The committee will be represented by two Valard and two SuperCom representatives and will ensure implementation of the agreed to contractors Aboriginal participation plan.”

Budzinski says Valard will also be connecting employment and contracting opportunities with community members and community businesses.

“There is a planned intake of a workforce of approximately 244 people, with many pursuing training in power line technician tradespersons, culinary arts, environment forestry technicians as well as other skilled work,” Budzinski says. “Additionally, hundreds of workers associated with the project will shop locally along the project route, generating opportunities and economic benefits for small businesses throughout the region.”

Pic Mobert Chief Johanna Desmoulin says it is a time of opportunity and economic growth for the six Northern Superior communities that are involved with the East-West Tie Line. She encouraged youth to get involved in the project through SuperCom.

“It’s a time of excitement, a time of growth and that opportunity is in front of you,” Desmoulin says. “All you’ve got to do is grab it.”

The East-West Tie Line is being built to connect the Wawa Transformer Station to the Lakehead Transformer Station near Thunder Bay to ensure a reliable, long-term electricity supply in northwestern Ontario. The about 450 kilometre double-circuit 230 kV transmission line will generally parallel the existing 230 kV transmission line between Wawa and Thunder Bay. It has an anticipated 2020 in-service date.

“I think it is going to be fantastic for our youth (with) training, employment, a better life,” says Ed Collins, president of SuperCom and manager of economic development for Fort William. “For the communities, I think it is going to be a boost in the arm for these transmission lines going forward.”

Pierre Pelletier, regional grand chief of Robinson Superior Treaty area, adds that the communities’ partnership in the East-West Tie Line will be a benefit.

“With the bands being part owners of it, it will give a huge revenue stream for the bands forever and a lot of opportunities coming up in regards to maintenance and everything else with the line,” Pelletier says. “So this could be a win-win-win for everybody.”

NextBridge Infrastructure was designated by the Ontario Energy Board to develop the East-West Tie Line in 2013. NextBridge Infrastructure filed a Leave to Construct application for the project on July 31.