Electricity project will proceed with or without Six Nations’ participation

The proposed Lake Erie Connector Project, consisting of a 110-km long power cable between Canada and the United States, will proceed with or without Six Nations’ participation, a community meeting heard at the Six Nations Tourism building last week.

Last Thursday’s meeting at Six Nations Tourism was the first in-person meeting on the project since community consultations began in March. SNGRDC has been hosting webinars to reach community members due to Covid gathering concerns.

The project is approaching a decision deadline, with community consultation expected to wrap up at the end of April and Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council expected to make a decision on whether or not to participate in the economic benefits of the project by mid-May.

Six Nations, as one of the First Nations in the project’s Nanfan Treaty Area zone, has three participation options: join as a 7.5 equity partner in the project, with a potential economic benefit of $45 million to $90 million; sign on for royalty payments, with a potential economic benefit between $30 and $40 million; or, do nothing.

In any case, ITC Holdings says it will move forward with the project because it has the required permits.

The cable will be dug in a two-meter trench underneath Lake Erie, connecting Pennsylvania and Ontario at the site of the former Nanticoke Generating Station. The land is currently being used as a cornfield.

Six Nations will also get about $118,000 a year as part of a community benefit agreement.

Project profits that come to Six Nations will funnel through the SNGRDC and the board will decide annually how to disperse those funds to community projects. The $118,000 will funnel through elected council.

In order to be a partner, Six Nations has to borrow $26 million from ITC. The money will be paid back throughout the lifetime of the project, said Matt Jamieson, SNGRDC president.

“From a risk perspective, it’s the best model that we could use to mitigate any risks we might have.”

The loan is a non-recourse loan, meaning the company can’t come after any of Six Nations’ assets if it defaults on the loan payments.

“The only thing that we’re pledging is the ownership units in the asset,” he said. “If the project fell apart and we couldn’t pay, ITC can’t come after us.”

ITC touts the project as a money-saver and an environmentally-friendly project that creates clean energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, Ontario doesn’t have adequate infrastructure to get rid of excess energy, leading it to be wasted. The project would see Canada and the United States alternately share power through the underwater, bi-lateral cable whenever either country has generated an excess of energy, earning Ontario profits from selling the power to the States and reducing electricity costs for Ontario ratepayers.

Six Nations has been in talks with ITC Holdings since the company first approached elected council in 2013.

Site preparation is expected to take place in 2023, with an estimated four-year construction period.

ITC and SNGRDC said when the project is decommissioned, the land will go back to its original condition.

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