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Hydro reveals forecast for Keeyask flooding

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The yet-to-be-built Keeyask generating station will flood about 45 square kilometres of land when it comes into service in 2021, an environmental hearing heard Thursday.

That's less than was originally forecast because of modifications to the dam's design, but it's just the starting point of more widespread flooding in future years due to erosion caused by higher reservoir water levels upstream of the dam.

Utility signs power exchange with Minnesota provider

MANITOBA Hydro has inked a new 200-megawatt "seasonal-diversity exchange" deal with Great River Energy of Minnesota, the Crown power utility announced Thursday.

The new deal extends a 150-MW arrangement between the two utilities since 1995. The new agreement runs to 2030.

"This agreement highlights the ongoing importance of transmission interconnections with neighbouring utilities," Hydro president and CEO Scott Thomson said in a statement.

"Not only do they allow us to sell excess hydroelectricity, which helps keep Manitoba's rates low, but they ensure that we have the ability to import electricity during periods of drought or during emergencies."

Hydro said seasonal-diversity exchanges take advantage of increased demand on Hydro for heating during winter months. Most U.S. utilities such as Great River Energy see their peak loads in the summer due to higher air-conditioning use.

Hydro says the diversity exchange means Hydro will send 200 MW of power to Great River Energy in the summer to meet their energy needs while Great River Energy will provide Hydro with 200 MW during the winter.

Great River Energy, based in Maple Grove, Minn., is a not-for-profit wholesale electric co-operative serving nearly 650,000 member-consumers or about 1.7 million people. Great River Energy is the second-largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, with more than 3,500 MW of generation capability.

Its two coal power plants, Coal Creek Station and Stanton Station, produce the majority of its power.

Jon Brekke, vice-president of member services for Great River Energy, said the deal with Hydro allows it to further reduce its carbon emissions.

 

-- Bruce Owen

The issue of potential flooding was raised by Manitoba Wildlands director Gaile Whelan Enns during questioning of a Hydro panel on whether Hydro had learned from past mistakes in its hydroelectric development in the province's north.

Enns said environmental impact statement documents show the full extent of flooding on the Nelson River due to Keeyask won't be known until at least eight years after the powerhouse goes into operation.

Vicky Cole, manager of major projects assessment and licensing for the Crown utility, told the Clean Environment Commission all parties are aware of predicted wider flooding. Keeyask is being developed in partnership with four First Nations most affected by the new dam -- Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Fox Lake, War Lake and York Factory.

Hydro officials said more widespread flooding, mostly caused by the erosion of peatlands along the Nelson River, could eventually take in an estimated eight-square-kilometre area. By comparison, flooding caused by the Kettle generating station following its construction in 1974 flooded a 220-square-kilometre area along the Nelson River.

Hydro said during the first 30 years of operation, the reservoir will expand in area by about seven to eight square kilometres because of shoreline erosion and peatland disintegration.

Cole said because of local concerns, Hydro changed the dam's design to reduce the amount of flooding but still keep the 695-megawatt facility economically feasible.

"The communities that are most affected by this development have been engaged," Cole said. "They've been engaged in helping us design mitigation to ensure that it's appropriate and minimize the adverse effects of the project."

The CEC is hearing evidence for the next six weeks on the environmental impact of Keeyask to decide whether or not to recommend the province issue an environmental licence.

The feasibility of the dam is also to be studied by the Public Utilities Board in the new year in what's called a Needs For and Alternatives To review.

Manitoba Hydro and the province say the $6.2-billion dam is needed to meet growing domestic demand for electricity and to meet future export commitments to the United States.

On the same day the CEC started hearing evidence in Winnipeg Monday, Minnesota Power filed paperwork with the state regulator to get approval to build the Great Northern Transmission Line from the Manitoba border to Duluth. The line is to be co-owned by Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 25, 2013 A14

History

Updated on Friday, October 25, 2013 at 12:34 PM CDT: Corrects that flooding could affect estimated eight-square-kilometre area, no 80-square-kilometre area

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