The City of Saskatoon has unveiled plans to build a hydropower station at the weir on the South Saskatchewan River.
An agreement is being signed between the city and the Saskatoon Tribal Council to jointly own the power facility, which will cost up to $62.1 million.
The project is expected to be funded by the STC and private sector partners.
“First Nations can benefit from employment, training and education opportunities that extend beyond the construction phase of this project,” Darrell Balkwill, Chair of STC Investments Inc., said in a statement.
“We are confident that the investment returns from this project will allow us to continue to support community infrastructure and social programs in our member communities.”
Depending on final design approvals, the station is expected to be able to power between 2,400 to 3,500 homes in the city each year.
Saskatoon Light and Power may be able to sell some of the electricity to SaskPower, as the hydro would contribute to their 50 per cent clean energy goal.
The facility is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21,120 tonnes.
Preliminary plans call for the weir to be raised to allow riverwater to flow kinetically through the hydropower apparatus. Renders show a pedestrian walkway crossing the river over the weir, along with a bypass for fish and other aquatic life.
The city conducted an environmental and technical study on the possibility of a hydroelectric facility back in 2009, when conditions were placed on any potential project.
They confirm in a FAQ on their website those findings are still valid, and the conditions remain in place.
The FAQ also notes concern over the pelicans that frequent the weir, saying the “health and well-being” of the birds will be “protected and enhanced.”
A spokesperson for the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) expressed optimism about the project.
“Conceptually, Meewasin is incredibly supportive of the idea of generating green energy and partnering with First Nations to deliver the project,” Mike Velonas, MVA manager of planning and conversation said.
He said the MVA is also excited about the possibility of a new pedestrian bridge.
“Our flagship is the Meewasin Trail and as of today, our trail crosses the river on bridges that move automobiles,” Velonas said.
“And to have an opportunity to have infrastructure dedicated to moving people and cyclists across the river in that humane comfortable way where they’re not competing with automobile traffic, in terms of noise, or safety, splashing and so on, is an incredible opportunity to enhance the river valley,” he added.
A representative for the Saskatoon Tribal Council said they viewed the project as another way to continue a positive relationship with the City of Saskatoon.
“We’ve looked at this from a couple of standpoints. I mean the investment, the money, the job opportunity,” said Doug Porter, general manager with Saskatoon Tribal Council Inc.
He said STC Inc. and the city have a number of partnerships, but this just happens to be the biggest one.
“We did the White Buffalo Youth Lodge 20 years ago, you know, turned that old grocery store into the youth facility, that’s just been greatly successful for us. That’s a partnership. The city put the building in, we’ve been the managing partner there,” he said.
Currently, there is no timeline for the project.