Citizen group encouraged to stand ground

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — With maps containing the houses of residents impacted by Hydro One’s Waasigan Transmission Line on the walls of the Kaministiquia Community Centre, the Neighbours on the Line gathered more information and more people to back their initiative on Wednesday.

The large Waasigan power line will run from the Municipality of Shuniah to Dryden parallel to an existing power grid with the project going right through properties in the Kaministiquia community.

The Neighbours group contends that residents and properties within a kilometre of the high-voltage power line will be impacted with possible water table contamination, electric radiation exposure and the loss of some homes.

“(Hydro One) is leading a human natural disaster all the way from (the Municipality of Shuniah to Dryden),” claimed Neighbours on the Line organizer Michelle Rosetta Hamer, who also pointed out that some Lappe landowners attended Wednesday’s meeting. “I’m observing a culture of the dismissed. I know what it feels like to be dismissed and that is why we are here now.

“I do not let anyone — whoever they are — dismiss me anymore. They disagree with me, they can argue with me, they can try to discredit me, but they do not get to dismiss me. . . .

“Just by showing up here, you’ve already experienced a win by choosing to look beneath ‘that’s just the way it is,’ and see what’s really under the hood.”

The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Thunder Bay resident Scott Harris, who faced a similar situation when NextBridge proposed to put power lines through Dorion five years ago where his camp is situated.

It led to a six-member committee where two Dorion town councillors and four campers offered an alternative route for the 22 landowners that were going to be impacted.

“I don’t think the culture of the dismissed is going to happen here,” Harris opened his presentation with. “I didn’t like what was going to happen in my backyard. I already had a power line within 100 metres of my camp and the parallel line idea would have taken another slice.

“(The Dorion town council) facilitated meetings with NextBridge and we met at public locations and (NextBridge) brought lots of information including maps.

“(NextBridge) was quite co-operative about hearing what we had to say and the reasons why we thought (the power line should not be built as it was first designed).

“Why did they give us our way? I guess that’s the big question. There were 22 landowners affected and the community itself was really tired of having all those intrusions.

“The next people they would have to deal with up the line was the Loon Lake Campers’ Association and they were not happy with another line coming through their lake.

“Our negotiations (with NextBridge) were quite amicable, so even though people were upset, we gave them the benefit of the doubt.

“(NextBridge) asked ‘Where would you like to put the line?’ and we showed where it should go and that’s exactly where it went.

“Would that have happened without citizen pushback. I doubt it.”

Presentations were also made by David Eyrou and Bob Menard, the latter of which brought forward the idea of an interactive map of the impacted areas that could be obtained online in the near future.

Hydro One said on Monday their next steps include completing an assessment to identify potential effects of the new transmission line; identifying measures to avoid or mitigate adverse effects; progressing with detailed design and construction planning; identifying real estate requirements and working with directly impacted property owners; and compiling a draft environmental assessment report for review and feedback.

Hydro One representatives were invited to Wednesday’s meeting to answer questions and hear concerns, but none were in attendance Wednesday.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal