Vote by First Nation throws new switch on Saskatchewan power project

STONY RAPIDS, Sask. – A northern Saskatchewan reserve has voted in favour of a proposed hydro-electric development that’s expected to generate more than $1 billion in economic benefits for the band.

Six-three per cent of Black Lake First Nation members who voted this week cast ballots in favour of SaskPower’s Tazi Twe Project on the Athabasca River.

The development — about 100 kilometres south of the Northwest Territories boundary — involves the diversion of water along the Fond du Lac River.

It is the first hydro project in Saskatchewan that would be built entirely on reserve land.

Under an agreement with SaskPower, Black Lake is slated to receive $1.3 billion in benefits over the 90-year life of the generating station.

The project must still clear political and regulatory hurdles, but construction could start late next year with power expected to come on stream by 2020.

Forty-four per cent of eligible voters took part in Wednesday’s balloting.

Black Lake Chief Rick Robillard said he is delighted with the outcome.

“Many people have been working towards this day for many years. I’m happy to hear that our community is in support of becoming proud owners in a profitable, long-term business.”

Planning for Tazi Twe has been in the works for more than 20 years. (CJWW, CJLR)