From my south and west facing windows, I have an absolutely stunning view of Hart Mountain -- Manitoba's second highest. My house is situated inside the eastern edge of the Porcupine Provincial Forest and my land is listed as conservation land. I live in an area where moose hunting is prohibited.
Yet, Manitoba Hydro wants to run the Bipole III transmission line right along the back of my property, within the park limits, alongside Highway 10, a main artery providing access to Swan River from the north.
You would think that I would have been notified that Hydro wanted to run the transmission line right alongside my property, but I wasn't. The only notice I received were the quad tracks they left on my private hiking trail, which I carved from the forest one branch at a time, first with pruning shears, then with loppers, then with a whiper snipper, then a chain saw, and finally a lawn mower.
But the Hydro crew left more than their quad tracks. They also left a bright orange survey marker, approximately 12 inches from my existing survey marker, and four of my handsome, healthy birch trees, felled, along with a couple of others that were a part of the provincial forest.
Of course after I saw this, and confirmed that it was in fact Manitoba Hydro that trespassed and cut down my trees, I got on their web page to see what was going on since their map of their final preferred route showed that the transmission line would be several miles from my property. So why were they marking my property? Because I hadn't read all the various articles on their web page and hadn't noticed the one that showed the route change placing it right behind my property.
When the Bipole III was first announced I followed the news, and studied the maps, and I sent emails to two different contact people from Manitoba Hydro requesting additional information. I didn't receive a reply from either one of them. And then I committed a crime. Because the Bipole III wasn't going to be in my back yard, I left the battle to others. Like most people, my plate was overflowing already. And who wants to fight and battle with a big corporation that has blinders on?
Talk about instant Karma. If the Bipole III project is not stopped, then my view of the beautiful Hart Mountain will be obliterated by buzzing, towering, steel monstrosities. Of course the value of my land is in its beauty, and so my property will be practically worthless. It will no longer be safe or pleasant for me to walk along my hiking trails with my dogs, partly because there is nothing wonderful and restorative about walking along a massive towering transmission line, but also because it may no longer be safe to do so. The cut line that they will make through the provincial forest will serve as an invitation to hunters on quads and snow machines.
My three beautiful healthy dogs already wear brightly colored scarves to discourage hunters from imagining that they might be wolves, bears or deer, but the scarves do not guarantee their safety. And my dogs don't understand where my property ends and the provincial forest begins and they have crossed that line in pursuit of a rabbit or grouse. But then there was no danger that they would run into a motorized machine or a hunter waiting for the opportunity to fire. And on hot summer days the increased quad traffic lends to increased risk of a forest fire.
I won't comment on the potential health hazards that may or may not exist as a result of walking or living in close proximity to a massive power transmission line, because of course, that will only be revealed with the passage of time.
Hydro said they consulted with rural residents. Give me a break. What rural residents? To my knowledge, they were in Swan River once at an open house, and I would have travelled the 120 kilometres over icy winter roads if they had given me more notice. Another time I believe they were in Dauphin -- a two and a half hour drive each way.
Also, digging up information via the Internet is not always easy. You might be very surprised to learn but there are still places in rural Manitoba where Internet access is not readily available. When satellite service first became available here it was barely faster than dial up. My ability to connect online depends on a number of factors -- whether the trees are in leaf -- winter is always better than the summer, and also whether it is windy or cloudy.
We have a cemetery in Bellsite that is not shown on the Hydro map, but when I compared it with my RM map it appeared as if the Bipole III transmission line was going to run right through it. So I called Manitoba Hydro, and yes they have learned to respond to enquiries, and a very pleasant representative informed me that in fact the "centre line" of the transmission line would be about 120 meters from the cemetery.
"Why wasn't the cemetery shown on the map?" I asked. "Too much detail" was the response. Like the houses where people live. They also aren't shown on the map.
Rural Manitoba has been a work in progress for generations. Families came, cut down the forest and planted the wheat that makes the bread that you eat each day. The development of this land has been a labour of love. I know I'm not the only person to love the place where I live.
And by the way, do you think Bipole III won't affect you? Who do you think will be paying for this project -- with a price tag of $3.3 billion, and we all know that the projected costs are never the actual costs.
Have you ever followed a course of action that you know to be wrong but you have invested so much into it that you feel you simply must carry it through "come hell or high water"? Well, it is my opinion that this is exactly what Manitoba Hydro is doing right now. Please, please, please -- speak up if you haven't already done so. The implications of this massive project are far greater than the dollars we spend on it and it has the potential to continue costing us, possibly for generations to come, in unforeseen ways.