The Wataynikaneyap Power Phase 1 project, New Transmission Line to Pickle Lake, and Phase 2 project, Connecting 17 Remote First Nation Communities, transmission projects are undergoing environmental assessments under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will also apply for those portions of the projects on reserve land.
What are Environmental Assessments?
Apart from the regulatory requirements, an Environmental Assessment (EA) is an effective planning and environmental management tool that is used to predict, analyze and interpret the effects of a project on the environment and to identify the impact management measures that will be used to avoid or otherwise mitigate net effects. An EA is a process through which the potential environmental effects of a proposed project, or set of activities, can be predicted and managed in advance of carrying out the project. Through the process, the existing environmental features of the lands that will support the project are described in detail, possible environmental effects of the project are described, impact management measures are proposed to mitigate the possible environmental effects, and an assessment is made as to whether the project will cause net effects despite implementation of the identified impact management measures. An EA also serves the purpose to encourage decision makers to take actions that promote sustainable development and thereby achieve or maintain a healthy environment and a healthy economy.
Meaningful and respectful Aboriginal engagement is an important part of EAs that can improve the environmental studies and the overall project. Identifying and engaging with First Nation communities and other Aboriginal groups and traditional land based rights holders early in the process and throughout the EA to understand their concerns, gather traditional knowledge, and determine how the project may affect them and their homelands builds support for the Project and helps to identify and manage effects to both people and the environment.
For the Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects, the baseline and environmental effects studies proposed to be completed for the EA include the following:
Natural Environment, including:
- Terrestrial environment, including vegetation, soils, wildlife and wildlife habitat;
- Aquatic environment, including fish and fish habitat;
- Air quality;
- Surface water, including hydrology and water quality; and
- Groundwater and geology.
Human Environment, including
- Socio-economic conditions, including Aboriginal interests and human health, land and resource use, visual aesthetics, community, and recreation and tourism ;
- Cultural heritage landscapes, cultural heritage resources, including archaeology, and built heritage ; and
- Built environment (e.g., existing roads, buildings, etc.).
Phase 1 New Transmission Line to Pickle Lake
The Phase 1 project is currently undergoing an Individual EA under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act as it is deemed a Category C project in accordance with the Guide to Environmental Assessment Requirements for Electricity Projects. The Project is not captured by the Regulations Designating Physical Activities under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) as the voltage of the transmission line is below 345 kilovolt (kV); and the preliminary proposed corridor or corridor alternatives are not located within a wildlife area, as defined under the Wildlife Area Regulations, or migratory bird sanctuary, as designated under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations. However Section 67 of the CEAA would apply should the corridor alternative through the Mishkeegogamang First Nation Reserve be identified as the preferred corridor.
The Individual EA process is shown in the figure below. The first step in the EA process is the initiating stage and the second step is the Terms of Reference (ToR) stage. This stage includes the preparation of and engagement on a ToR. The ToR provides the framework for the EA. Wataynikaneyap began the ToR process in the fall 2012 with a Draft ToR. After extensive Round 1 and 2 engagement efforts, which included review of a Draft, Final and Amended ToR, an Amended ToR was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in February 2015. Based on the approved ToR the EA will be completed on the preliminary proposed corridor, Dinorwic (east of Dryden) to Pickle Lake and two corridor alternatives from Ignace to Pickle Lake. A final corridor routing analysis will be completed on the preliminary proposed corridor and corridor alternatives based on the input received during engagement.
Individual EA Process
Phase 2 - Connecting 17 Remote First Nation Communities
In 2013 and 2014 Wataynikaneyap completed extensive engagement with 15 First Nation communities along the Red Lake and Pickle Lake subsystems to identify proposed 5-km-wide corridors to connect the First Nation communities. Starting in spring 2016, Wataynikaneyap initiated the EA process with engagement with First Nation communities and traditional land-based rights holders along the Red Lake and Pickle Lake subsystems to narrow the 5-km-wide corridors to 2-km-wide corridors, refine the corridor routes and to identify potential corridor options for some communities. Wataynikaneyap also engaged on a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) Workplan with First Nation communities and key provincial and federal agencies. The Draft EA Workplan identifies the proposed method for the EA, including EA Criteria and Indicators and study areas. Field surveys undertaken in spring and summer 2016 included vegetation surveys, waterfowl surveys, nightjar surveys, and two rounds of breeding bird surveys. Wildlife monitoring using remote cameras
iswas also undertaken.
On September 26, 2016, Wataynikaneyap formally commenced the EA with the release of the Notice of Commencement/Invitation to Public Information Centres. Wataynikaneyap completed Public Information Centres in Pickle Lake and Red Lake in October 2016, and is conducting the second round of Aboriginal engagement meetings on the environmental assessment throughout November and December 2016 and into early 2017. The Project team will be meeting with First Nations communities to provide additional project information, an update on progress, and collect community feedback on the Project. This feedback will help to further design the Project and to understand what should be included in the environmental assessment. Additional engagement meetings will be held in the future.
Information and presentation materials are available at the links provided and include:
- Panels presented at Pickle Lake and Red Lake Public Information Centres (PIC) held on October 12 and 13, 2016, as well as at First Nations community meetings (including revised contacts and additional vegetation survey results compared with the PICs)
- Draft Environmental Criteria and Indicators Summary
- Phase 2 Draft Aboriginal Engagement Plan
- Phase 2 Draft Stakeholder Engagement Plan
- Phase 2 Draft EA Workplan
Key Environmental Assessment Documents and Maps
Phase 1 New Transmission Line to Pickle Lake
Amended Terms of Reference
- Supporting Documents
- Appendix A: Potential Permits and Approvals
- Appendix B: Preliminary Corridor Routing Analysis
- Appendix C: Aboriginal Engagement Plan
- Appendix D: Stakeholder Engagement Plan
- Notice of Commencement of Environmental Assessment
- Draft Environmental Assessment Criteria and Indicators
February 2017 EA Update
Phase 2 Connecting 17 Remote First Nation Communities