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Energy East pipeline = large dams in Manitoba

Manitoba dams
The Conawapa and Keeyask dams could power Energy East pumping stations in Manitoba

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Energy East pipeline and large hydro-electric dams.

Yesterday, our allies at the the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (in which our Winnipeg chapter is a member), the Wilderness Committee and Manitoba Wildlands held a media conference in Winnipeg and connected these issues. They stated that the pipeline’s eight pumping stations in Manitoba would require a tremendous amount of hydro-electric power and become Manitoba Hydro’s biggest customer.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports, “Eric Reder of the Wilderness Committee said little information has been released by Hydro and the Selinger government on their role in the project. Reder said the power demand by the pumping stations could require a new dam, such as Conawapa.”

The Carillon adds, “Energy East and other pipelines were discussed at last year’s mega-hearing into Manitoba Hydro’s plan to build the Keeyask generating station and a new transmission line [Bipole III] to the Minnesota. Hydro has said the hydro power needed by the pipelines themselves would require just under 2,000 gigawatt-hours of energy, which is roughly half the dependable energy of the 695-megawatt Keeyask station on the Nelson River. …Reder said the eight proposed pumping stations will also have to be fed by new transmission lines, including one to be located in the Whiteshell near Falcon Lake.”

The Keeyask dam is to be completed by 2019, while Conawapa is to be operational by 2026. 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. The Bipole III hydro-line is set to run 1,400 kilometres from the Conawapa dam in northern Manitoba along the west side of Lake Winnipeg and then to the city of Winnipeg. In January, the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation set up a blockade to stop Manitoba Hydro from clear-cutting a path 65 metres wide for 250 kilometres through their traditional hunting and gathering territory for this transmission line.

In her critique of large dams, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has noted they harm Indigenous peoples, are a source of greenhouse gas emissions, and displace large amounts of freshwater. Last month, close to 300 people gathered at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg to hear Barlow, Shoal Lake 39 Chief Fawn Wapioke and Nebraska-based TransCanada opponent Ben Gotschall speak against the pipeline.

The Winnipeg Sun notes, “The province cannot stop the pipeline, said Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Tom Nevakshonoff. ‘My understanding is that the federal government has the authority but (the province) has to be consulted’, said Nevakshonoff, who has officially applied to become an intervenor in the National Energy Board’s review. …The concerns outlined in Nevakshonoff’s application include such oil spills or ruptures in sensitive areas, effect on the environment, and the possibility that an oil spill on Shoal Lake could affect Winnipeg’s drinking water.”

Yesterday, the groups pointed out that while the federal government may be able to approve the pipeline, the Manitoba government does have leverage in that it must also approve the construction permits needed for the pipeline. They also called on the Selinger government to order the province’s Clean Environment Commission to hold public hearings on the project.

To watch their media conference, please click here.

Further reading
Dam construction in Manitoba to power Energy East pipeline (May 2014 blog)
Sapotaweyak Cree Nation blockades hydro line that could power Energy East pipeline (January 2015 blog)
Maude Barlow’s 9-point critique of major dams (November 2013 blog)
Council of Canadians public forum in Winnipeg warns against Energy East pipeline (April 2015 blog)