Strategic environmental assessment completed for the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a detailed level Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was completed for the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project. The purpose of the SEA was to analyze and document potential important positive and negative environmental effects from the Project.

The Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project is connecting 16 First Nation communities located in remote northern Ontario to the provincial power grid, ending their dependence on diesel-generated electricity. Wataynikaneyap Power – a licensed transmission company that is majority-owned by a partnership of 24 First Nation communities alongside industry partner Fortis Inc. – is responsible for the project that includes approximately 1,800 kilometers of transmission lines and associated infrastructure. In December 2018, Pikangikum First Nation was the first community connected to the grid through the Project, and by the end of 2023, the remaining 15 communities will be grid connected.

In general, the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project aligns with Government of Canada environmental priorities. For example, the Project supports the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change's call for new actions to reduce diesel reliance in Indigenous communities through a variety of methods, including connecting communities to provincial electricity grids. The Project also aligns with several goals in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, including: Effective Action on Climate Change, Clean Energy, and Safe and Healthy Communities.

The SEA concluded that several important positive environmental effects will likely result from implementation of the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project. Currently, the 16 communities rely on diesel-generated electricity. Diesel generation is one of the most emission-intensive forms of power generation and is more harmful to the environment than Ontario's power grid, which utilizes cleaner energy sources including nuclear power and gas. Over a 40-year analysis period, Wataynikaneyap Power expects that the Project will result in:

Another important positive environmental effect identified through the SEA process is the avoidance of diesel contaminant spills that can occur from the transportation and storage of diesel fuel. By connecting these 16 communities to the provincial power grid, the risk of future diesel spills is avoided. It is also anticipated that diesel fuel storage tanks will be decommissioned and/or removed from the communities as a result of the Project. Should any of these sites be deemed contaminated, an assessment, remediation and/or risk management process will occur through the Department's Contaminated Sites Management Program.

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