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Chief Denise Restoule of the Dokis First Nation attended the 2014 Pollution Probe Gala to accept Pollution Probe’s 2014 Sustainability Award in connection with the Okikendawt Project—a 10 MW hydroelectric facility being developed by the Dokis First Nation with Hydromega Services Inc. New water power projects are not always green, and are meeting stiff environmental, aboriginal and community opposition in many parts of Ontario. Good to know that some are being done right.

The project is being developed at the site of the Portage Dam in French River, Ontario which is 80 km southeast of Sudbury and 45 km southwest of North Bay. It has been reported to be an economic development goal for the Dokis First Nation for the past 25 years. The name “Okikendawt” means “pots in the rocks in the river” in Ojibwa.

The project was granted a Priority Permit under the federal Dominion Water Power Act in 2009 to develop the water rights at the existing Portage Dam located on the French River at the outlet of Lake Nipissing. According to Chief Restoule, the purpose of the project is to tap into the outflow of the already existing public works dam. The project was granted a FIT contract in April 2010 under Ontario’s Green Energy and Economy Act, 2009 (GEAA). Under the GEEA, the objective of the FIT Program is to facilitate the development of renewable generating facilities of varying sizes, technologies and configurations via a standardized, open and fair process. The generating station is located on federal lands where Public Works and Government Services Canada operate control structures that regulate the levels and flow of Lake Nipissing and the French/Little French Rivers.

Since 2011, the Pollution Probe Sustainability Award has been acknowledging “extraordinary achievement by individuals or organizations working toward positive, tangible environmental change”. The Okikendawt Project is being celebrated as a model of sustainable development, community building and environmental and cultural stewardship. During the project’s development, major efforts were made to improve walleye fishery habitat, protection of breeding sites for the Blanding Turtle, and the preservation of ancient archaeological pictographs and other artifacts.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne presented the award to Chief Restoule noting her leadership and commitment to her community. Chief Restoule gave a heartfelt speech highlighting her gratitude for the Green Energy and Economy Act, 2009 which allowed this project to provide her community with a source of pride given the resultant economic growth and green jobs.

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