THUNDER BAY — A proposed alternate route for the Waasigan Transmission Line is off the table after Hydro One identified multiple shortcomings with the plan.
The utility on Tuesday released the results of its evaluation, saying that on balance the route has more disadvantages than the one previously identified through the environmental assessment process.
That route, which parallels an existing transmission line, goes through the Kaministiquia area where numerous property-owners object to the wires crossing their land and, in some cases, passing right over their houses.
The Neighbours on the Line citizens group had asked the utility to consider a path that would take the new transmission line north of Dog Lake and around Lac des Mille Lacs to Atikokan with the purpose of avoiding private land.
According to Hydro's evaluation, out of the four factors that it used to compare the two routes, the socio-economic environment was the only area in which the alternate route scored higher.
It crosses less private land, is in proximity to fewer residences, crosses a smaller trapline area, and is near fewer known public scenic viewpoints.
The other factors that were weighed were the impact on the natural environment, Indigenous values, and technical and cost impacts.
The study found that the Neighbours on the Line proposal would be 22 per cent longer and would result in a larger disturbance to vegetation and wetlands, waterways and wildlife habitat.
In addition, it would cross a larger area of land where Indigenous communities exercise their Aboriginal and treaty rights.
Hydro One said it continues working with Kam-area residents to find route refinements "and ensure those landowners who have displacement concerns can remain in their homes."
Sonny Karunakaran, director of project delivery for the utility, said that under the current proposal, wires would go over the tops of half a dozen homes, potentially forcing them to move.
"What we're saying is we've got solutions through a mixture of minor adjustments to the route and technical adjustments to make sure that goes to zero. So nobody will be asked to move from their property."
Neighbours on the Line spokesperson Michelle Hamer was not immediately available Tuesday for comment.
Elsewhere in the region, Hydro One is proposing some route changes in the Shebandowan area in response to concerns expressed by residents there.
Jack Christy of Shebandowan said "It's never easy to find out that your community is the one that is impacted, however Hydro One was open to working with our residents, and found ways to make changes to the route that we could be supportive of."
The Waasigan Transmission Line is a 50/50 equity partnership with nine First Nations including Fort William First Nation.
Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association president Wendy Landry referred to new opportunities in the mining sector in predicting that the project "will unlock prosperity for multiple generations."
The new line between Thunder Bay, Atikokan and Dryden would be constructed in phases, starting with the Thunder Bay-to-Atikokan leg, which could be in service by the end of 2025.