If the NDP can build the Bipole III hydro-electric transmission line in six years, why do they need seven to build a new outlet for Lake Manitoba?
That’s the question Opposition Leader Brian Pallister asked today in comparing the two projects, one to cover 1,380 kilometres and the other to cover as much as 23 kilometres.
Pallister also said there are only up to only 30 private landowners the province needs to consult for the Lake Manitoba outlet compared to more than 400 for the Bipole line, which is to run from Northern Manitoba to east of Winnipeg.
Pallister said these landowners would welcome the additional outlet as it would reduce the threat of flooding to farmland and cottages.
He also said the province could pick, design and build the outlet in as little as three years, including conducting mandatory consultations with four First Nation communities.
While the Bipole III debate has gone on for more than a decade, the Clean Environment Commission approved it in June last year with a completion date in 2017, Pallister said. The province first asked for the CEC to hold public hearings Dec. 5, 2011.
"I’m not comparing apples to apples in that sense because, of course, they are two different proposals, two different projects," he said. "The magnitude of the two projects is not even close."
The province has said it believes it needs about seven years to build the two permanent outlets for Lake Manitoba.
It says that amount of time also includes design and engineering, public and First Nations consultations, regulatory approvals, land assembly and construction. The estimated cost is about $300 million with actual construction taking about three years. The province will also first have to build a new road to the Lake St. Martin outlet, and depending on the route picked for the Lake Manitoba outlet, will have to realign roadways and build new bridges.
Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton has said the clock started ticking on that seven year timetable in early 2013 with the release of two independent reviews, one which examined water levels on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin and the other the province’s handling of the 2011 flood.
The province has also said it has six options for a new outlet for Lake Manitoba and two for neighbouring Lake St. Martin.
Victims of flooding in 2011 and this summer say the province has been too slow to build the new outlet for Lake Manitoba, and blame sustained high flows on the Portage Diversion for flooding the lake again.
The Tories plan to hold a rally at the legislative building at noon on Tuesday to put pressure on the Selinger government to move faster on the outlet.
"My point being, it’s achievable. You can get this project done if you have a will to get the project done," Pallister said.
Ashton has also said a new Lake Manitoba outlet won’t open until the Lake St. Martin channel to Lake Winnipeg is fully operational.