Thunder Bay joint venture with First Nation builds housing subdivision

A joint venture with True Grit Consulting and Fort William First Nation

by Peter Caulfield
Member of the Fort William First Nation housing project breaking ground.

Subdivision ground breaking day. — Photo courtesy Oshki-Aki LP

A joint venture created by True Grit Consulting Ltd and Fort William First Nation is close to completing the first part of a residential project on a First Nation in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Adam Rose, True Grit's principal and manager of engineering service, said Oshki-Aki Limited Partnership (New Earth) is expecting to complete all roads, lots, infrastructure and water and sewer services by November 2015.

A dump truck, loader and small cat are all on a road at the Fort William First Nation housing project.

Putting in the infrastruction the housing subdivision at Fort William First Nation housing project. — Photo courtesy Oshki-Aki LP

“And we anticipate to start building the homes in spring 2016,” Rose said.

The houses will be occupied by members of Fort William First Nation (FWFN). The 21-lot subdivision is the first phase of an expansion of the residential part of the FWFN. The project, which started construction in 2014, is located at the most northerly limits of Thunder Bay. The city is situated on the north shore of Lake Superior in northwestern Ontario.

Rose said the subdivision was designed with an open-cut ditch drainage system that includes a sub-drain system that can handle any problems caused by the area's high ground water table. The site required a grade raise.

“We imported fill to ensure the sanitary sewer grades were able to connect to the existing system and to create adequate drainage of the surface water,” Rose said.

The subdivision was designed with a green space that can be used in the future as a recreational area.

A man surveying in the middle of a road on the Fort William First Nation housing project.

Oshki-Aki Limited Partnership is expecting to complete all roads, lots, infrastructure and water and sewer services by November 2015. — Photo courtesy Oshki-Aki LP

“And a storm water management pond ensures that the quantity and quality of surface water are effectively controlled on site and do not impact downstream areas,” Rose said.

True Grit Consulting acts as the design and project management team that represents FWFN.

“We work collaboratively with the chief, council and the band administration to make sure all of the project's objectives are being met,” Rose said. “The First Nation wants to ensure the resources and capacity of the community are used to the fullest extent and contribute to job creation and the building of skills.” 

The FWFN team includes public works staff, administration and council.

“That allows for effective decision making and guidance during construction,” Rose said.

Members of FWFN work on the project as environmental technicians, surveyors and material testing technicians.

In addition, First Nations companies provide materials and services. Mount McKay Heavy Equipment, a locally owned First Nations construction company, was hired by Nadin Contracting Ltd., the prime contractor on the project, for earth works, site services and sewer and water installation work.

In addition to public works, FWFN provides sand and gravel from its nearby quarry. Altogether, between 10 and 15 First Nations are employed on the project.

Rose said no major problems have come up during construction.

“There were, however, some minor challenges,” he said. “They included a relatively wet and low-lying original ground that required interim grading and water management by the contractor.”

Oshki-Aki Limited Partnership was incorporated in 2011. The joint venture creates employment and mentorship opportunities for FWFN members and builds skills toward permanent careers in consulting and engineering.

Although it is only a few years old, the joint venture has already taken part in a number of projects: Resurfacing 12 kilometres of road on the reserve; a three-year project that includes a $3-million reconstruction of the Mission Road main street to bring it up to modern standards by this fall; and upgrading the FWFN pow-wow grounds, which was completed in spring 2015. 

Looking ahead, the joint venture has other projects either on the go or on the books.

They include a major expansion and upgrade of the sewage lagoon system; managing and engineering a new 30,000-square-foot office building project; a  community drainage study, designs for arena parking lot expansion and improvement; a breakwater study for the City of Thunder Bay, and a storm water control study for the Lac des Iles mine.

On the horizon are further subdivision expansion, aggregate development, land development and infrastructure upgrades.

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