SWI Report Now Available for Download
“As a First Nation, water resources management must balance our heritage, traditional values of our Elders and economic needs of our children and future generations. The Showcasing Water Innovation program supported our community by enabling us to incorporate an innovative, low impact technology that ensured we met both economic and ecological values.”
– Chief Wayne Sabourin
Pic Mobert First Nation
This report describes the development of the Gitchi Animki Hydroelectric Project, including its original context and goals, the solutions implemented and results obtained as well as recommendations for next steps and applications in other communities.
The Na tah me sah ka mig People of the Pic Mobert First Nation have lived on and from the lands and waters of the White River watershed, since time immemorial. The White River watershed encompasses some 5,283 km2 ha extending some 130 km from its headwaters to Lake Superior.
The modern day Pic Mobert community that is home to some 400 people, is located on White Lake, a man-made lake created with the construction of a regulating dam, now known as “the White Lake Dam”, by the forest industry in the 1940’s. Over time, this artificially regulated lake has developed and now supports new values and interests including White Lake Provincial Park, approximately sixty residential cottages, and a recreational boat club and campground. White Lake is a popular sport fishing and recreational boating lake and is also a popular put-in point for canoeists paddling the White River down to Pukaskwa National Park and Lake Superior.
While the Pic Mobert First Nation continues to use the lake and surrounding river systems for traditional activities such as trapping, hunting, fishing and transportation, its connection with the waters of the White River watershed area have over time diversified to also include recreation and economic development and, beginning in the Spring of 2016, as a source of drinking water for the community with the completion of the new and modern drinking water source and treatment system.
The Showcasing Water Innovation (SWI) Project is a component of the Gtichi Animki (“Big Thunder”) Hydroelectric Project (“GAH Project”), that the Pic Mobert First Nation has developed in partnership with White River Hydro Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Regional Power and Manulife Financial; the Pic Mobert First Nation holds a 50% equity ownership stake in this project. The GAH Project consists of two hydroelectric generating stations, Bezhig and Niizh, with a combined generating capacity of 18.9 MW. The Behzig generating station will replace the White Lake Dam which is now owned and operated by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and is at risk of failure and need of replacement.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Pic Mobert First Nation investigated the feasibility of operating the White Lake Dam as both a regulating dam and for generating electricity. It was envisioned that the sale of electricity would not only support a business case for investment of the capital costs of replacing the regulating dam, but also generate a revenue stream to offset its operating costs and provide a net revenue stream for the community. A subsequent pre-feasibility study recommended that the optimal location for the regulating dam was approximately three kilometres downstream of its current location. In 2004, Pic Mobert First Nation received approval from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in response to an application requesting to relocate the dam and generate electricity at that location. The approval was conditional on continuing to operate the new dam principally to meet the lake level management objectives of the existing structure.