The Henvey Inlet First Nation (HIFN), in Central Ontario, had a goal: Generate a clean-energy revenue stream that would help the community grow and thrive. Their journey began in 2011, when HIFN applied for a 300-megawatt wind energy project.
To ensure the project was developed, constructed, and maintained in an ecologically-responsible manner, the HIFN took a unique step toward self-governance and stewardship of their land: The community developed the HIFN Land Laws which included a rigorous environmental permitting process separate from Canada’s Indian Act. Under their own laws, HIFN undertook to develop the 87- turbine Henvey Inlet Wind Energy Centre.
But while renewable energy, like wind, is an alternative to carbon-based energy and can help in the fight against climate change, wind projects still have impacts on the environment. To effectively manage environmental impacts of their development projects, including the wind farm, HIFN developed the role of an independent Environmental Commissioner.
Beginning in 2015, GEI’s team of experts have served as the Environmental Commissioner for HIFN. We have been responsible for ensuring that commitments outlined in the HIFN Environmental Permit are effectively implemented during all phases of the Project; in particular, this includes commitments related to species at risk and their habitat.
Today, we support a team of Abatement Officers and consult with GEIs ecological staff to confirm and enforce permit compliance with a focus on operational impacts to avian and bat species, road impacts to reptiles, site remediation and habitat restoration.
“The work we do with HIFN is so meaningful,” says Tanya Hutchings, GEI’s Senior Project Coordinator. “As an Indigenous person myself, I get to go to work every day to protect rights and lands – I have the best job in the world. I’m proud of GEI and our efforts to continually support First Nations clients.”
Dylan Panamick, GEI’s Environmental Monitor and member of Henvey Inlet First Nation adds: “Working with GEI has brought me many opportunities to learn new stuff about animals and plant habitats in and around the community. Sometimes it feels more like a vacation than working because I enjoy the outside work we do so much.”
Beyond our partnership on the Wind Energy Centre, GEI has gone on to work with HIFN on several community projects, including the HIFN Fire Hazard Assessment and Abatement Program, the HIFN Floodplain Mapping project, Medicinal Plants Review and the Kirtland’s Warbler Habitat Monitoring Program.
The HIFN Wind Energy Centre became operational in 2019. Today, HIFN has achieved their goal of a clean-energy revenue goal to support the community, and GEI continues to partner with HIFN to achieve their environmental commitments.