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New hydro station to power up Pic River First Nation.

Ojibways of Pic River First Nation has announced the construction of a new environmentally friendly 23-megawatt power generating station on the White River, approximately 30 kilometres from Marathon.

The project is being developed by Begetekong Power Corp. a joint venture between Pic River First Nation and Innergex II Income Fund.

Begetekong is a community-based business holding 51 per cent of the partnership and 49 per cent is held by Montreal-based Innergex II Income Fund.

At peak activity there will be a maximum of 60 tradespeople on the construction site, project manager for CRT Construction Alain Labonte says. Currently 20 workers are clearing for transmission line development and a 30-kilometre roadway. Over the next few weeks the powerhouse lands and the intake infrastructure will be cleared. Civil engineering work was anticipated to be completed by late July or early August.

The community has a very active and robust labour force, Labonte says. The people are versed in equipment operating as a result of past experiences with the Hemlo gold deposit located next to the community.

"Our problem is that we do not have enough people here," says Begetekong Power Corp. vice-president Byron LeClair.

"Where we can't fit a need, companies are bringing in their own labourers."

The footprint of the project is relatively small.

The White River water system is 53 kilometres long and the project will occupy 900 metres of that river system.

Currently, the river flows into a natural gorge. The aim is to build a dam at the gorge site to redirect the river into an intake channel, which will be located 32 metres higher than the powerhouse, LeClair says.

This process elevates the water to an artificial level, flooding a small portion of the area, which usually incurs water during spring. The river will be redirected into the intake channel, which will flow into an excavated tunnel.

The tunnel then takes the river's water and delivers it to the powerhouse where turbines and generators produce electricity at a maximum flow of 85 cubic metres per second. The project is expected to generate 180,000 megawatts/hour of electricity a year to sell to Ontario's power transmission system--enough energy to power more than 15,000 average homes, LeClair says.

The $60-million project has undergone government environmental assessment certification and has been approved.

Partner Innergex II recently completed a project with CRT Construction on a Trent River system project and will now work with them on the White River.

Through the bidding process they turned out to be the most competitive of the three companies, LeClair says. They will be responsible for the hiring that will be associated with building the project.

The primary goal of Begetekong is to secure the permits to build the facility.

Once it is up and running, Begetekong will hire two full-time operators from the community to run the facility. The project is expected to take two years.

The Ojibways of Pic River accountability is becoming a way of life for some 950 members. This has lead to more jobs, a stable economy and a better future.

"We want to participate, we want a share of the revenue and we want opportunities for our people to work," states LeClair in a public annoucement. "We've become an important employer in the region."

The First Nation's jobless rate has dropped to 10 percent during the off-season and to five percent in the summer.


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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