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14 of 18 factors say west side is worse option for Bipole III: report

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A report commissioned for Manitoba Hydro turned thumbs down on the provincial government's plan to move the Bipole III transmission line from east of Lake Winnipeg to west of Lake Manitoba.

Karen Friesen, president of the Bipole III Coalition, said that the information is contained in two reports leaked to her three years ago that she hasn't released until now at a independent inquiry being held by them today.

The reports include information that the loss of all three of the province's Bipole lines is one in 3,249 years for the west line compared to one in 7,500 years if the line was in the east.

As well the documents say it will cost more to compensate farmers to make way for the west side route.

Out of 18 issues brought up, the report states the west side is the worse option for 14 of them.

Friesen said the documents make clear that the decision to move the route - which is 500 kilometres longer and costs $1 billion more - was a government decision and not Manitoba Hydro's.

Scott Powell, a spokesman for Manitoba Hydro, said the reports released by the coalition were actually discussed publicly back in May 2011.

Then Tory leader Hugh McFadyen tabled the same leaked internal reports in the Legislature and said it bolstered his argument to cancel Bipole III if his party won the provincial election.

McFadyen said the reports proved it was a mistake cancelling the transmission line down the east side of the province and moving it to the west.

Then finance minister Rosann Wowchuk said moving the project would delay it for years and jeopardize lucrative power contracts in the United States.

The Progressive Conservative party lost the next election to the NDP.

"This is old news," Powell said.

"Everybody has an opinion on the project. We are simply proceeding on the basis of the licences granted."

Powell said crews are already in the process of clearing land in the north to make way for the transmission line down the west side of the province.

The hydro route was moved by the government to protect the boreal forest on the east side of Lake Winnipeg while a proposal was made to designate the area a World Heritage site.

Friesen said that although Bipole III was also argued during the last provincial election she believes more Manitobans are against it now.

As well, last week the Manitoba Métis Federation announced it will conduct its own town hall meetings because Hydro has not recognized Métis rights.

"It's never too late to turn back until the project is started," Friesen said.

"We need the public to realize what is happening here. Our hydro rates will double in the next 20 years."

Graham Lane, a former chairman of the Public Utilities Board, and a longtime critic of Bipole III, is acting as the commissioner at the unofficial inquiry and says he will release conclusions at the end of it today.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 11:29 AM CDT: Clarifies that out of 18 issues brought up, the report states the west side is the worst option for 14 of them. Headline changed also.

1:12 PM: Corrects use of superlative.

1:44 PM: Adds response from Manitoba Hydro.

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