The Lower Mattagami Hydroelectric project is unique in so many ways, a one-ofa- kind success story that illustrates the power of partnership, the value of communication and the necessity for a shared vision.
“The partnership between the Moose Cree First Nation and Ontario Power Generation has really helped my community, where a lot of people are employed today,” said Chief of the Moose Cree First Nation, Norman Hardisty. “It’s really turned things around for us. Each community in Canada, whether you’re First Nations or not, is trying to build an economy, and I think that’s where we’re heading.”
As part of the of the Amisk-oo-skow agreement, the Moose Cree will own a 25 per cent equity stake in the project, but that’s just one aspect that’s revitalized the local economy. Moose Cree businesses have been awarded over $300 million worth of sub contracts since the project began four years ago and, at peak construction, over 250 First Nation and Métis workers were employed by the project directly.
The unique partnership is what has made the $2.6 billion dollar project possible, although some thought the project was a long shot. But when two parties share a common goal, when they care for the North and for the environment, and when they’re prepared to listen, negotiate and compromise for the greater good, an agreement is always likely.
“Reaching an agreement involved a lot of education on both sides: the Moose Cree had to learn about the hydroelectricity trade, and in turn OPG had to learn about our culture and how we live as a people,” explained Chief Hardisty. “It’s been a learning curve for both sides and, in the last year especially, we’ve progressed to a point where each party now truly understands what we’re trying to achieve.”
Clean Energy for a Stronger North
The project – the largest hydroelectric undertaking of this kind in northern Ontario in the past 40 years – is a joint venture between the people of the Moose Cree First Nation and Ontario Power Generation.
It involves the redevelopment of four existing hydro stations that are based approximately 70 km north of Kapuskasing and 200 km south of Moose Factory on the Mattagami River. By the time it is completed, in 2015, the project will have added 438 megawatts (MW) greenhouse gas emission-free electricity. That’s enough renewable energy to meet twice the peak demand of Greater Sudbury.
A new station is being built beside the Smoky Falls station, while new units will be added to the Kipling and Harmon generating stations. The newly constructed unit at the Little Long station was declared in-service on January 19, 2014 and added 67 MW, bringing the total capacity of the station to 205 MW. The future of clean energy is in good hands.
The potential for redevelopment was first identified over 40 years ago, but various obstacles prevented the project from getting past the planning stage. “We’ve been waiting for the right time to proceed,” said Dick Jessop, OPG’s project director. “With the current push for clean power, it was the right time to take the project and proceed with it.”
Hitting The Targets
This partnership isn’t just about mutual respect and understanding, though. It’s also about effective planning, stringent preparation and good old-fashioned hard work. It’s the type of long-term undertaking that epitomizes the importance of toplevel project management.
The methodical approach to each stage of the development has allowed OPG to continue hitting their project targets and stay within budget, which is a notable achievement for a project of this magnitude. It’s also good project management experience that will benefit OPG’s other big projects, like the upcoming refurbishment of Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Durham Region.
“Our success is really down to good planning,” said Jessop. “We did a lot of the design work before we sought approval for release of the project, and we did about 25 per cent of the engineering work – 300 detailed engineering drawings – over a 12 month period so that we could get a detailed estimate of the project.”