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CEC should delay hydroelectric development in North: First Nations, green groups

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First Nations and environmentalists are calling on the Clean Environment Commission to live up to its own words: delay any further hydroelectric development in Manitoba’s north until a wider study is done on the impact of dams on the land and its people.

Pimicikamak First Nation, Peguis First Nation, the Interfaith Task Force on Hydro Development and Manitoba Wildlands will hold a news conference Tuesday to demand the CEC delay its public hearings on Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask generating station project on the lower Nelson River.

The groups have filed motions filed with the CEC to secure a full cumulative environment assessment regarding hydro-electric projects across northern Manitoba prior to any further hydro projects — exactly what the CEC outlined in its recent report on the Bipole III transmission line project.

The CEC said:

"During the Bipole III hearings, it became apparent that past hydro-electric developments in northern Manitoba have had a profound impact on communities in the area of these projects, as well as on the environment upstream and downstream. Bipole III and projects proposed for the near future will add to these impacts.

"As the Commission heard from the affected communities, the cumulative effects of these projects need to be considered as a whole. The Bipole III cumulative effects assessment did not take into account and was not required to take into account the breadth of all these projects.

"However, in order to fully understand the impact of proposed future projects, it will be necessary to understand the impact of past and current projects in addition to new impacts.

"A regional cumulative effects assessment is needed for all Manitoba Hydro projects and associated infrastructure in the Nelson River sub-watershed. The result of such an assessment would be a greater understanding of the impacts of the individual projects, as well as the cumulativeimpacts of all projects together.

"Understanding these impacts may lead to the use of current mitigation measures being applied to past impacts, resulting in some remediation. Greater understanding may also lead to alterations in the structure or operation of existing projects, and may offset impacts from new projects.

"It is recommended that this Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment be undertaken prior to the licensing of any additional projects in the Nelson River sub-watershed and that this regional assessment be part of the cumulative effects assessment carried out for any individual future project. The regional assessment must include, but not be limited to, Jenpeg, Kettle, Long Spruce, Limestone, Bipole I, II and III and all associated transmission lines and infrastructure."

The CEC has scheduled public hearings to begin Sept. 24 in Gillam and ending Nov. 28 in Winnipeg.

Métis Federation to release position on Bipole III

Meanwhile, Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand will make announcement Wednesday on the organization’s position on Bipole III.

Chartrand has already said the MMF is prepared to go to court to block the project because of a lack of consultation with Métis people.

Bipole III is Hydro’s proposed 1,300 km transmission line to run down the west side of the province from Gillam to Winnipeg. Minister of Manitoba Conservation Gord Mackintosh issued a license for Hydro to proceed with Bipole III on Aug. 13 following a recommendation made by the CEC.

The MMF will be making its formal announcement on Bipole III Wednesday morning.

The MMF says the announcement is timely given the fact that the Public Utilities Board is currently in the early stages of conducting a "Need For And Alternative To" review of Hydro’s overall plan for hydroelectric development in the province.

History

Updated on Monday, September 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM CDT: Adds information on MMF announcement.

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