Little Long, Harmon and Kipling generating stations were built in the mid-1960s. The fourth — Smoky Falls — was built in 1931. Older and smaller than the others, it didn’t use water as efficiently.

They run one after another along a short stretch of the 418-kilometre-long Mattagami River, about 70 kilometres north of Kapuskasing, on the traditional territory of the Moose Cree First Nation.

Double the green power

The Lower Mattagami Project has an impressive price tag at $2.6 billion, but it is the best kind of energy: renewable, dispatchable, and sustainable.

“The river would run without us taking the energy of that river and turning it into electricity,” said Dick Jessop, the OPG’s Project Director. “There are no waste byproducts from doing that. There’s no carbon monoxide, there’s no emissions.”

There is a total of six new generating units, one each to Little Long, Harmon and Kipling, and then a brand new station was built at Smoky Falls with three generators.

When work on the last station, Kipling, is completed this winter, the Project will have nearly doubled the power from the existing dams, from 486 megawatts to 926 megawatts, enough to give clean energy to up to 440,000 more homes.

“The river would run without us taking the energy of that river and turning it into electricity,”

Partnership power

The project is on-budget, and has been on average about four months ahead of schedule, said Jessop. When the project finishes, it will have lasted nine years of Jessop’s life.

For his partner in the development, Chief Norm Hardisty Jr. of the Moose Cree First Nation, the project first began with talks in the mid-nineties. In 2009, the signing of the landmark Amisk-oo-skow agreement gave the Moose Cree a 25-percent equity stake in the project.

“Our economy is turning around. Certainly this project was a major player in that. We benefited from this project, not only from the jobs and contracts, and we’ll be benefiting from this agreement for many years to come,” said Chief Hardisty.  

First Nations jobs

The project eclipsed First Nations employment targets — the goal was 200 person years of First Nations employment, but Jessop said they reached 450 person years. At its peak, the project employed 250 First Nations and Métis people, and had a total of 1,1600 workers, said Jessop.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Jessop. “When you get to know them, you get to understand their issues, how they’ve been treated, and what we can do to work together. It was a wonderful experience I wish more Canadians could share.”

Model for the future

The training means Moose Cree First Nation now has trades people who can work on other projects in their territory, or elsewhere in the world. The partnership has been so successful, it could be used as an model across the country, said Hardisty.

“We’re looking at working with the OPG going forward. Our partnership doesn’t stop when the project is done,” he said.