Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/1/2012 (2049 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba Hydro filed its much-delayed environmental impact statement for Bipole III with the government in late 2011. Under normal circumstances, this would be a good news story because it presents an opportunity for public input into a project that is so important to Manitobans.
Unfortunately, there is a serious flaw in the review process. The public dialogue that will be permitted before the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission is being constrained by the exclusion of any information, and probably even by any public input, about the east-side route for Bipole III.
The east side was the only route considered by Hydro engineers for a 20-year period ending in 2007 when the NDP government exiled that route from any further consideration. Hydro's official position in the review process is that the east side was "not available." The plan for this exclusion was hatched jointly by Hydro and the NDP government way back in 2010.
An east-side route would be less expensive by more than a billion dollars. With losses 40 megawatts lower than the west side, it would be more energy efficient. It would be more compatible with the existing transmission system, especially in circumstances, inevitable over the lifetime of the line, when an ice storm or a tornado takes out either or both Bipole I or II as it did in 1996.
An east-side line would not be intrusive in Manitoba's farming community. Unlike the west-side line, it would be fully compatible with Manitoba's existing built and natural infrastructure. An east side with power and roads would be a start in releasing east-side First Nations from an isolated life of abject poverty and deprivation.
Arguments based on the comparative environmental impact on wildlife favouring one side over another are a wash. There is one aspect of the impact on wildlife, however, that is huge and which Hydro has minimized in presenting the west-side route choice. That is the impact on migratory birds using the central and Mississippi flyways.
But with the restrictions being put on the environmental review, none of that matters. A travesty like this is not surprising when the lines are so blurred between government and the utility, as they are in Manitoba. Manitobans are being restricted to participating in a process that is not unlike debating how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic just before it sinks.
Engineering dean emeritus
University of Manitoba