Woodbine, NS. Dec. 6, 2016… Today there are about two-dozen local Aboriginals working on the $1.5 billion Maritime Link. That’s about 10% of the overall workforce. This included those working on transmission lines, those working in security and another dozen people are working in construction. Many of these Aboriginal workers received training or support from the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office.

It was back in 2010 that the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office (MEBO) began working on efforts to ensure local Aboriginals would be part of the workforce on the Maritime Link project. This included scoping out the work to be done, building relationships with Emera NL and its many contractors and also implementing a plan to train local Aboriginals to be part of the job opportunities. “Now we are seeing results,” said Alex Paul, Executive Director of the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office. Three of the workers on site (in photo) are Wally Bernard and Danny Paul from Membertou and Vincent Denny from Eskasoni.

The Woodbine Converter Station on Morley Road in the Grand Mira North is managed by ABB. The busy construction season saw installation of the concrete foundations for the DC and AC yards and also the installation of grounding systems and conduit for electrical cables. It also included the construction of the three-story converter building. As this building is fully enclosed, the interior work will ramp up. This includes the installation of electrical equipment and control systems to convert DC to AC electricity for connection to the Nova Scotia Power grid. The Woodbine substation, located about six kilometres west of Marion Bridge, is where the Labrador-generated electricity will hit the Nova Scotia power grid.

The Maritime Link is a 500-mega-watt high voltage direct current transmission project bringing energy from the Lower Churchill project at Muskrat Falls in Labrador to Nova Scotia.

It includes two 170-kilometre subsea cables across the Cabot Strait with almost 50 km of overland transmission lines in Cape Breton. The Maritime Link’s final completion date is late 2017. “It’s on budget and on time,” said Rick Janega, president and CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, the company responsible for the $1.5-billion Maritime Link project.

“This site is where all the energy — clean, renewable energy — from Newfoundland and Labrador will come onto the island once the substation and converter station is completed,” said Janega. The first phase of the project is finished with the Ontario-based contractor PowerTel Utilities successfully completing work on the essential grounding lines that connect to the high-voltage power converters on both sides of the Cabot Strait. The Woodbine converter’s grounding line hits the earth at Big Lorraine, northeast of Louisbourg. The Bottom Brook, N.L., facility converts high-voltage electricity to DC and the Woodbine site converts it back to high-voltage AC.

There are presently about 100 workers at the Woodbine substation location, where two of the facility’s four large transformers, built in Spain and Sweden, are already on site.

According to Chris Huskilson, president and CEO of Emera Inc., the Nova Scotia-based utility giant behind the project, the construction of the Maritime Link will require more than 650,000 person-hours of work in Nova Scotia alone. He said there are currently some 500 workers on the job on various aspects of the project. “To date more than $250-million worth of contracts have been awarded to more than 200 Nova Scotia companies.” Several of these contracts were won by Aboriginal companies, including the security contract.

The seeds of the Maritime Link undertaking date back more than a decade, but it wasn’t until November of 2010 that Emera and Nalcor (Newfoundland’s provincial energy corporation) signed a deal in which the former agreed to design, engineer, construct and commission the project that will help the provinces meet federal regulations that call for 40 per cent renewable energy by 2020. It was also back in 2010 that MEBO management had their first meeting with Emera officials.