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Power line plans: First Nation - energy partners eye transmission projects.

First Nation communities on the North Shore of Lake Huron are forging relationships with powerline operation companies that will give them ownership in the construction and operation of transmission projects across the North.

In February, the Lake Huron Anishinabek Tran-mission Company (LHATC) signed a pair of memorandums of understanding--with FortisOntario and Valard Construction--to construct and operate transmission projects within the territory of Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850.

Under the joint venture with Fortis, the partnership will develop, construct and operate regulated electricity transmission projects in Ontario. Fortis will retain 51 per cent while LHATC has the right to acquire 49 per cent equity interest.

"We have a strong partner in FortisOntario and this partnership marks a very significant change in Ontario where treaties are being recognized by investors as an opportunity to benefit from, and to participate in, First Nation economies," said Isadore Day, Lake Huron regional grand chief and chief of the Serpent River First Nation, at the time of the announcement.

Fortis CEO Bill Daley said the joint venture will leverage the strengths of LHATC while combining the expertise of Fortis companies, "thereby enabling us to compete successfully to construct, own and operate new transmission infrastructure in Ontario."

Fortis is the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada, with more than two million customers and assets of $12.5 billion.

Through the partnership with Valard, LHATC will hold a 51 per cent interest, while Valard will retain a 49 per cent interest. The MOU outlines a plan for the venture to engineer, procure and constuct electrical transmission and distribution projects within the territories of LHATC shareholders.

In addition, the partnership will focus on providing support for renewable energy projects and mining developments.

Valard is based in Alberta, but moved into Ontario two years ago, with the intention of expanding its operations in the province. It currently counts a workforce of 300 and is looking at the potential for moving into the East Coast and Europe.

Ross Assinewe, interim CEO of LHATC, said the two projects complement each other.

"LHATC and Valard will be seeking opportunities to work with the industries that are operating within the Robinson-Huron Treaty territory," he said in a news release. "I believe this to be the true spirit of what our grandfathers had envisioned at the signing of the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty."

Valard President Adam Budzinski said it is a company goal to enhance relationships with First Nation communities across Canada, supporting First Nation peoples in the attainment of business, education, employment training and employment opportunities.

"With our combined resources and knowledge, LHATC and Valard have forged a mutually beneficial partnership that will maximize Anishinabek First Nations' opportunities to benefit from the construction of transmission and distribution projects in their territories," Budzinski said at the announcement. "As Canada's largest utility contractor, we have a solid track record of working with First Nation peoples to ensure they participate in and benefit from local projects."

By Northern Ontario Business staff
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Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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