Ottawa is supporting a water and sewer partnership between Kenora and Wauzhushk Onigum.
"I'm beaming at the moment with the announcement," said Rat Portage Chief Chris Skead. "It has been on the prime minister's radar obviously to end boil water advisories. I know we're one of many communities, but today is the day for Wauzhushk Onigum."
The $7.2 million agreement announced by Kenora MP Bob Nault at the Golden Eagle Casino in the First Nation helps underwrite a partnership that has been talked about for many years between leaders of the First Nation and the neighbouring City of Kenora. If all goes according to plan, the boil water advisory could be lifted next year.
The timing fits in with the completion of Freedom Road -- connecting Shoal Lake 40 with the Trans-Canada -- as well as the next federal election, expected in the fall of 2019.
Ottawa is hoping to end all 105 long-term boil water advisories across the country by 2021.
Nault adds the funding agreement should also relieve pressure on water rates for Kenora residents, who have seen significant increases in utility bills, while providing room to grow in Rat Portage. This would include the possibility of a casino.
"If you want to put it in that context, because the taxpayers are paying for the water treatment plant and the sewage treatment plan. So, more efficiencies, less cost," he noted, after the announcement.
The province forced ratepayers in Kenora into a five-year, 10 per cent a year increase in water fees, in order to replenish water and sewer infrastructure funds.
The Kenora area has also been chosen as one of five sites for a casino, as part of the northern Ontario bundle, by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. While Gateway Casinos of B.C. have been chosen as the gaming provider for the northern bundle, they have not yet chosen a site for the Kenora location.
Wauzhushk Onigum leaders have expressed interest in reviving their casino operation, and improved water and sewer infrastructure would assist their application.
There may also be opportunities for developing marina facilities at Bare Point or Northern Harbour, not to mention housing developments, if more water and sewer hookups are available.
Last year, Northern Harbour was at about 250 slips, but owners have suggested they could expand to as many as 550.
In his comments after the announcement, Nault talked about both marinas and casinos as possible projects for the area.
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