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Northwest partners eye power line

The selection process for the builder of a future high-voltage hydro line between Thunder Bay and Wawa is continuing while deadlines for those wishing to provide input approach.
The Ontario Energy Board, which could select the “transmitter” of the 230,000-volt (kv) line later this year, says those seeking intervener status must advise the board by March 5.
At this point, no oral hearings are planned and input is be considered in writing. Those who wish to argue in favour of public hearings must do so by the same date.
Eight electricity companies, including a business consortium with close ties to Northwestern Ontario, have expressed interest in building the “east-west tie” line, estimated to cost $600 million and require two years of construction.
The current plan is to have the line in service by 2017. If a builder is selected this year, construction could begin in 2013.
The line would be built to last at least 50 years, and would be in addition to existing 230-kv and 115-kv lines operated by Hydro One and Great Lakes Power.
In the planning stages for the past two years, the new 230-kv line would improve the exchange of electricity between Northwestern Ontario and the rest of the province, as well as allow new water and wind power projects to tie into the provincial grid.
There is no capacity on the existing lines for new projects.
Of the eight proponents, EWT LP enjoys the backing of six First Nations whose traditional territory lies directly in the path of the proposed line.
The six (Pic Mobert, Michipicoten, Pic River, Pays Plat, Red Rock and Fort William) have formed a company called Bamkushwada Ltd. Partnership and are one of three partners in EWT LP.
The other two are Toronto-based energy giant Brookfield Power and Ontario’s Hydro One.
Pic River Hydro president Byron LeClair said the involvement of the First Nations in the EWT LP bid is timely.
“We are seeking to change how (electricity) transmission is done in this province,” said LeClair. “First Nation participation is key, because these types of projects must account for aboriginal land tenure.”
Though a decision has yet to be made on who the builder of the line will be, LeClair said the EWT LP bid is a formidable combination of “First Nation, private and public companies.”
Hydro One, according to an OEB filing, “owns and operates approximately 97 per cent of Ontario’s transmission system” and has $10 billon in hydro-related assets.
For its part, Hydro One says it entered into the EWT LP partnership to bring about “the most qualified and cost-effective licensed transmission company” to develop the new line.
LeClair, noting Hydro One came in with EWT LP last fall, said it made sense for Hydro One to come in as a partner rather than compete against Bamkushwada and Brookfield.
More information about the project is available at the OEB website, ontarioenergyboard.ca/EWTie.