Dam construction in Manitoba to power Energy East pipeline

Concept drawing for Keeyask dam by Hatch.
Concept drawing for Keeyask dam by Hatch.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports, "[Manitoba] Hydro has told the PUB [Manitoba Public Utilities Board] there are two pipeline proposals [including the Energy East pipeline] on the table in Canada that would see more crude oil shipped from Alberta's oilsands to Eastern Canada and the United States through already existing pipeline routes. For all that oil to flow, both pipelines need a round-the-clock supply of electricity. Lots of it [just under 2,000 gigawatt-hours of energy]. All that power is to be sucked up by a series of pumping stations along each line."

The article notes, "If approved, Energy East would see the expansions at four existing oil pumping stations and addition of four new electric pumping stations in Manitoba." It adds that the National Energy Board-approved increased capacity for the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline to Superior, Wisconsin "includes the installation of four new pumps and electrical work at the West Souris Pump Station and three new pumps and electrical work at the St. Leon Pump Station." The already-converted TransCanada Mainline pipeline into North Dakota meant the "building [of] six new pumping stations".

"Wuskwatim, the province's newest dam that opened in 2012, has a capacity of 200 megawatts. ...'We're looking at increased energy consumption from the pipelines -- the oil pipelines need electricity for their pumps', Ed Wojczynski, Hydro's manager of portfolio projects, said. 'The amount of electricity is much more than Wuskwatim would produce.'"

And so new dams are being considered, with the twist that some of that hydro-electricity would be exported to the US.

"In almost nitpicking detail, [Manitoba Hydro's] plan to build two more northern dams and a transmission line to the United States has been pulled apart so many times it's become known as K19/C26/750MW for the sake of brevity and to save paper. In short, K19/C26/750MW is Hydro's plan to keep supplying the province with electricity for decades to come and to make some money off the Americans... It means building the Keeyask generating station [dam] by 2019 [with a net capacity of 695 megawatts], Conawapa by 2026, and a 750-megawatt transmission line to Minnesota by mid-2020."

The Keeyask dam would be located about 725 km northeast of Winnipeg, where Gull Lake flows into Stevens Lake, and would flood approximately 46 square kilometers of boreal taiga lands. In March, the $1.4 billion general civil contract for the Keeyask dam was awarded to Bechtel Canada Co., Barnard Construction of Canada Ltd. and EllisDon Civil Ltd. While the four Keeyask Cree Nations: Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation and York Factory First Nation would own 25 per cent of the dam, Mike Sutherland of the Peguis First Nation is critical of the dam. He says, "Is it a dollar today or the environment tomorrow? You know, what is it worth? To us as First Nations, especially Peguis, there's no price on the environment." Additionally, Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand says, "Keeyask and its related transmission line will affect Metis rights. The Metis have not been taken seriously. We are being told we are a small and inconsequential minority in the Keeyask project area."

The Winnipeg Free Press notes, "The PUB is considering whether Keeyask and Conawapa, and the new transmission line, make economic sense or whether they should be postponed until more is known about how much power the Americans are willing to buy. The PUB's report is due June 20."

The article adds, "This new load from the pipelines highlights the sometimes overlooked electrical demand by Manitoba's industrial users, the big mining companies and fertilizer plants that need a steady supply of affordable power to operate." The top ten industrial power users in Manitoba include: Vale (Thompson), HudBay Minerals Inc. (Flin Flon), Enbridge Pipelines Inc. (southern Manitoba), Koch Fertilizer Canada ULC (Brandon), and the TransCanada Corp. pipeline (southern Manitoba).

Beyond the new dams being considered to power these export pipelines, concerns have also been raised in Manitoba that the Energy East pipeline would run past the Shoal Lake #40 First Nation and the Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 First Nation in Ontario. Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake) is the source of Winnipeg's drinking water. For more on this, please see Energy East pipeline may put at risk Winnipeg's drinking water and IJC says no to Winnipeg selling its water. For more on this, please see  Energy East pipeline may put at risk Winnipeg's drinking water and IJC says no to Winnipeg selling its water.