Canadian utility SaskPower and the Black Lake First Nation are taking the first step in developing a hydro power project in northern Saskatchewan by signing an agreement to carry out feasibility studies on a 50MW run of the river scheme at Elizabeth Falls near Fond du Lac.

The agreement will allow for environmental and engineering studies to begin in this month. SaskPower signed the agreement with the Elizabeth Falls Hydro Development Corporation, which was established by the Black Lake First Nation to oversee the project.

“We are really pleased with the progress we are starting to make on this important project,” said Black Lake Chief Donald Sayazie. “Should it proceed, this hydro project will bring many benefits to the people of the Black Lake First Nation and communities in the region. We look forward to working with SaskPower to take the necessary steps in what we hope will ultimately result in clean, environmentally friendly power being generated in the north.”

Should the project prove to be an economical supply option, the two parties would negotiate a contract for SaskPower to buy the electricity provided by the project, which would fulfill a growing need for electricity in northern Saskatchewan.

Pursuing emission free hydroelectric generation was one of the medium and long-term supply options SaskPower identified when it shared its future generation plans with the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Crown and Central Agencies in late 2009 and early 2010. The Committee endorsed this approach in its final report, which was issued in April 2010.

If given the go-ahead, the hydro project would redirect a portion of the flow in the Fond du Lac River, at the east end of Lake Athabasca.