A committee of City of Saskatoon councillors believe that the city should prepare a Memorandum of Understanding with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, as the agreement would start a feasibility study for a jointly-owned hydropower station at the weir.
The Standing Policy Committee on Environment, Utilities & Corporate Services approved the move at its meeting on March 12. It will be considered by City Council later this month.
“This is a positive first step,” says Kevin Hudson, manager of sustainable energy for the city-owned Saskatoon Light & Power. “As we have said before, there could be many benefits of an initiative like this and we look forward to developing a partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council.”
The total estimated cost of the project is $61.5 – $65.2 million, which is expected to be funded by the Saskatoon Tribal Council and private-sector partners, off-set by revenue generated by the power station and funding from other green-energy funding sources.
The committee also recommended the City Administration meet with whitewater park supporters to discuss the development possibility that a recreational facility be considered at the same time as the hydro project – including costs.
Earlier pre-feasibility and environmental baseline studies concluded the project was technically feasible and is expected to be economically viable.
“Of course we need further details, but we are confident there is a tremendous opportunity here,” says Darrell Balkwill, chair of STC investments Inc. “First Nations would benefit from training, jobs and educational possibilities. Investment returns would help infrastructure and social programs in our member communities.”
The project will involve restoring the weir’s current infrastructure, and the construction of a river crossing for pedestrians and cyclists that will be wider, safer and more accessible than the current one on the CP Rail Bridge.
Previous studies found that such a project would not cause any significant disruption to the ecology of the area or negative downstream effects to the river valley: a slight raise in river water is expected but it tapers to zero beneath the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge.
The project has been on hold since last presented to City Council in 2015 until funding could be identified.