NextBridge has been given the go-ahead to build its North Shore transmission line, despite an 11th-hour push by Hydro One to take control of the project.
The province on Thursday announced an order in council had been issued to select NextBridge to construct the East-West Tie, a 450-kilometre line between the Thunder Bay and Wawa transfer stations.
“NextBridge is ready to get to work,” said NextBridge project director Jennifer Tidmarsh in a statement. “We have worked in collaboration with Indigenous and local communities and right-of-way landowners for the past five years to develop this important project that will deliver economic benefits for generations to come.”
Provincial energy minister Greg Rickford said moving forward with the line will support economic growth in Northwestern Ontario.
"Maintaining reliability and cost efficiency is a top priority for our government. The East-West Tie Line has long been identified as a priority project to provide a consistent supply of electricity that supports economic growth, job creation, and resource development in northwestern Ontario," Rickford said in a statement.
"NextBridge is the right choice to quickly and efficiently complete the East-West Tie Line. NextBridge has finished the preliminary work necessary to complete the project, it has the support of local communities and First Nation and Métis partners, and the project sets in motion opportunities to create local employment for over 200 Indigenous people."
Despite NextBridge being selected as the proponent in 2013, the process was re-opened after the estimated price tag for the project ballooned to more than $700 million.
The Ontario Energy Board held hearings last fall to consider the competing bids. The board had given the two companies a Thursday deadline to submit their not-to-exceed prices.
NextBridge had developed a partnership with the North Shore Indigenous communities, with six holding an equity stake. The communities have also formed an economic development entity to pursue training and contracting opportunities related to the line's development.
"This is more than an electricity transmission project," Fort William First Nation chief Peter Collins said. "It’s an economic partnership between industry and our First Nation communities that builds capacity and provides employment opportunities for over 300 Indigenous people.”
Hydro One, which had initially been shut out, re-entered with its Lake Superior Link proposal that the company said would have been a shorter and less expensive alternative by being able to use the existing corridor through Pukaskwa National Park.