Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hydro lines -- death by 1,000 cuts

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In Hydro damage adds up, the Free Press editorial on Sept. 17 makes the case the cumulative effects of Hydro projects over time and over the geographic area of the province are major.

The Clean Environmental Commission, in its report on the Bipole III review, appropriately referred to Hydro's failure to consider cumulative effects as "death by a thousand cuts."

In the review, Hydro argued it needed only to be concerned the impact of any new project was no greater than that of its most recent assault on the environment, however bad that was.

In defending this approach, Hydro introduced the concept of a standard it called "the new normal."

As one of the hundreds of landowners directly in the path of these Hydro mega-projects, I could not disagree more with this approach and especially with Hydro's conclusion the impact on agriculture of Bipole III will be negligible.

Even a single project of the magnitude of Bipole III by itself will have huge negative long-term impacts on our farms and our families. But each and every additional transmission project planned to cross southern Manitoba's best farmland will most certainly have a cumulative negative effect, not only on our farms but on the entire agricultural industry.

Hydro engineers who appeared under oath at the Bipole III hearing were not forthcoming on the extent to which planning for additional new transmission lines had advanced. As a result, the cumulative environmental and sociological impact of these new lines on the same prime agricultural farmland impacted by Bipole III was not even considered.

They refused to acknowledge as late as March 14 Hydro's planning for additional transmission lines was anywhere near final stages.

Yet only weeks after the release of the Bipole III report and even before the licence for Bipole III was issued, Hydro was out alerting southern Manitoba landowners of its plans to begin building not one, but three, new lines in southern Manitoba.

Their timing for consultation with landowners was again suspect, since many of us were too busy to attend their information sessions, as it was harvest time. So much for Manitoba Hydro's commitment to "do better" with future consultations with landowners!

With all of the details for the St. Vital/Letellier line having been worked out for each of three alternative preliminary preferred routes, all of them through prime farmland, and consultation in the next-to-final stage, we were again the last to know.

Planning for another line, the St. Vital/Laverendrye line, running around the south end of Winnipeg and terminating just north of Oak Bluff, is so advanced no alternative routes will be considered.

Manitoba Hydro will submit its environmental assessment report to Manitoba Conservation by December 2013 and Hydro will be granted a licence to proceed shortly afterwards.

And now southern Manitoba landowners are learning that, very soon, they will see the huge Manitoba-Minnesota HVAC interconnection running through their farms.

It is incredible no details were available five months ago for three new transmission lines that will have such a major impact on landowners. And now the plans for these lines are all but finalized. Give us a break, Hydro.

Whatever happened to property rights for those of us who live in the breadbasket of the province? It is an absolute disgrace both the provincial government and Manitoba Hydro continue to treat us this way and get away with distracting and misleading citizens and ratepayers.

 

Karen Friesen is a farmer and president of the Bipole III Coalition.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2013 A9

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