The Manitoba government has issued a licence to construct the Keeyask hydro generating project.
In a statement this morning, the province said it has accepted the recent recommendations from the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) in deciding to proceed with the project and will attach more conditions to the development.
The 695-megawatt generating project, estimated to cost $6.5 billion, is proposed by the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership -- a partnership between Manitoba Hydro, the Tataskweyak First Nation, the York Factory First Nation, the War Lake First Nation and the Fox Lake Cree Nation.
"The Clean Environment Commission conducted an independent, thorough review of the Keeyask proposal and after hearing from the public, recommended the proposal was ready to be licensed," said Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh. "We embrace the recommendation and want to go further to protect the environment as we build Manitoba's future."
The minister said a special panel of the Public Utilities Board has also recommended proceeding immediately with the construction of the Keeyask dam.
He said no project of its kind has been more carefully reviewed and the decision to grant a licence for the Keeyask generating project was based on:
- "the most extensive environmental review in the province's history for any project of its kind" including participation in the Clean Environment Commission hearings by 219 people;
- "the most thorough financial and economic evaluation of an industrial development in Manitoba history" by a special panel of the Public Utilities Board;
- a Crown-Aboriginal consultation process under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act which resulted in 35 licensing conditions that address community concerns;
- an extensive review by the government's Technical Advisory Committee; and
- an extensive federal review process.
Mackintosh said the license contains an unprecedented 165 specific conditions including:
- developing a "world-class, leading-edge plan" to protect the lake sturgeon and other fish, including new high-tech fish 'passible' turbines, with this plan adding to the extensive work Manitoba Hydro is already undertaking to protect sturgeon and other fish;
- instituting an extensive monitoring program so environmental impacts and the success of licensing requirements can be measured;
- creating a plan to protect caribou and other wildlife;
- making information easily accessible so the public can share monitoring results, reports and evaluations of mitigation measures;
- creating no net loss of wetlands benefits;
- adding more shoreline protection;
- introducing measures to reduce the social and health impact of the project on local communities, such as mercury monitoring programs;
- ensuring high standards for traffic and road safety; and
- starting a plan to eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides.
Manitoba Hydro has also confirmed that it does not have development plans for the Seal River, an important habitat for the beluga whale. Over the next three years, consultations will start on the protection of the Seal River ecosystem, the minister said.