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OPG hopes cost-cutting will help hydroelectric project move forward

The project manager for a proposed hydroelectric dam north of Lake Nipigon is hoping some changes will be more attractive and get it approved.
People look at a map of the proposed project Thursday afternoon. (Jamie Smith,

The project manager for a proposed hydroelectric dam north of Lake Nipigon is hoping some changes will be more attractive and get it approved.

The proposed Little Jackfish River hydroelectric project was originally supposed to have two generating stations with capacity for 100 Megawatts of electricity, enough to power 100,000 homes.

But OPG has since removed the upper generating station on Little Jackfish River, which will reduce the project to 75 MW but also cut 40 per cent of the cost.

OPG project manager Murray Paterson said the project also now requires an automated system for the summit control dam to regulate water levels for the river.

"We looked at the economics of the two sites and the upper site was significantly more expensive because of the foundation conditions that are there and the fact that we had to build a road up there," Paterson said Thursday at an open house on the project at the Travelodge Airlane.

"We haven’t lost much energy and we’ve got the cost down quite a bit so the Ontario Power Authority is happier with that configuration."

Only having one generating station will also reduce the amount of flooding in the area by more than half of the original 1,000 hectares required.

But the project now also includes a study for transmission lines. Paterson said connecting the dam to the provincial grid has been a moving target since the project’s inception.

The OPA originally had a plan to create an enabler line for the project and several wind developments in the area before changing its mind and requesting Hydro One create the NorthwestTransmission Project, a 430 kilometre transmission line from Nipigon to Pickle Lake.

 It’s since been decided that the NTP is not an OPA priority so OPG has now decided to create its own transmission line to tap into the grid.

"It’s sort left the project without a plug so we’re not going to be able to develop the project unless we have somewhere to connect it to the grid," Paterson said.

That means the original $750 million estimated cost of the project will increase he added.

"It will increase the cost significantly . We were hoping we wouldn’t have to do it but we have to do it," Paterson said. "I really don’t want to put a cost out there because people will focus on it and figure that that’s the cost."

Still Paterson said he’s hopeful the project will move forward. If all approvals are met, Murray said the best case scenario would see Little Jackfish start producing electricity by 2016.

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