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Bearskin Lake First Nation welcomes the “The line that brings light”

August 29, 2023 | By Anthony Capkun

Following a blessing, the Bearskin Lake community’s leadership and members, and invited guests, stand together for a photo in front of the Bearskin Lake substation.

August 23, 2023* – “The line that brings light”—“Wataynikaneyap” in Anishiniiniimowin—has made its way to Bearskin Lake First Nation, connecting that northern Ontario community to the provincial power grid in July.

Upon grid connection, the community—which is located over 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay—turned off the diesel generators that had been providing them with primary power.

“Grid connection is necessary to power the future needs of the community, including our future water and wastewater community upgrades,” said Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin. “Reliable power enables us to grow. We have multiple houses and buildings ready for connection, as we no longer have to worry about being at max capacity for power.”

The Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system connects the Bearskin Lake community distribution system to the provincial grid through a total of 739 kilometres of line and six substations, originating from the Dinorwic Substation.


Margaret Kenequanash, CEO, Wataynikaneyap Power (far right), welcomes the Bearskin Lake community during a luncheon.

“I want to acknowledge the work that Bearskin Lake leadership has already undertaken to take full advantage of the opportunities reliable power brings—for instance, to improve their housing situation,” said Margaret Kenequanash, CEO, Wataynikaneyap Power. “Now that we have a power transmission line, owned by the First Nations, we can all focus on looking to future opportunities instead of band-aid solutions.”

Bearskin Lake became the fourth First Nation energized by the provincial power grid through the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system. Five more First Nations are planned to be energized this year, with the remaining seven to be connected in 2024.

(Watay Power says it will continue to work with McDowell Lake First Nation toward the goal of becoming grid-connected in the future.)

Bearskin Lake will continue to be served by Hydro One Remotes Communities Inc. (HORCI) for the local distribution of electricity.

Prior to grid connection, Bearskin Lake relied solely on its HORCI diesel generating station—which consisted of three (3) generators ranging from 410 kW to 1000 kW—to provide for the needs of more than 480 on-reserve residents.

Wataynikaneyap Power is majority-owned by an equal partnership of 24 First Nations, in partnership with Fortis Inc. and other private investors, to build and operate the $1.9-billion “Line that brings light”.

“We are proud to stand alongside Bearskin Lake First Nation in commemorating their integration with the Ontario electrical grid,” said David Hutchens, president & CEO, Fortis Inc. “With more than 94% of the Wataynikaneyap Project now complete, we look forward to the successful connection of all 17 First Nations to the grid.”

The 1800-km Wataynikaneyap power transmission line will ultimately connect 17 remote First Nations to the Ontario power grid, removing their reliance on diesel-generated electricity.

* Updated August 29, 2023, with photos from the Bearskin Lake community.

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