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Manitoba may reroute Bipole III hydro-line that would power Energy East pipeline

The January 2015 Sapotaweyak Cree Nation blockade against the Bipole III transmission line.

The newly-elected Conservative premier of Manitoba is considering moving the proposed Bipole III transmission line from the western side to the eastern side of the province.

The $4.6 billion Bipole III hydro-line is currently set to run 1,400 kilometres from the Keeyask dam now under construction in northern Manitoba along the west side of Lake Winnipeg and then to the city of Winnipeg. 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 May 2014, the Winnipeg Free Press reported, “[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… For all that oil to flow, both pipelines need a round-the-clock supply of electricity.” Ed Wojczynski, Manitoba Hydro’s manager of portfolio projects, says, “We’re looking at increased energy consumption from the pipelines — the oil pipelines need electricity for their pumps.”

TransCanada Corp. is already among the top ten industrial power users in Manitoba.

First Nations on both sides of the province oppose this transmission line.

In January 2015, 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 the Bipole III transmission line. The ancestral lands they want to protect includes burial grounds and spiritual sites. At the time of the blockade the Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation set up a teepee on the route in solidarity with the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation.

A May 2015 media release highlighted, “The transmission line will infringe on the ancestral lands of Opaskwayak Cree Nation (Treaty 5) and Pine Creek First Nation (Treaty 4), severely impacting the natural cycle they rely on today. The lands and water are used to support their traditional practices of hunting and fishing, including ceremonial activities. To safeguard and protect the earth and environment the Chief and Councillors of the communities are opposing the Bipole III development through their ancestral lands until Manitoba Hydro conducts meaningful engagement with the First Nation communities impacted.”

And CBC reports, “One of the major opposition groups to the Bipole III in eastern Manitoba was Poplar River First Nation — the community said it wants to preserve its boreal forest. The area is also being considered next month by UNESCO for designation as a world heritage site.”

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak is opposed to Bipole III. In addition, six of the sixty-four Manitoba First Nations he represents would also be directly affected by the Energy East pipeline.

Today’s news report highlights, “Premier Brian Pallister says he’s open to moving Manitoba Hydro’s $4.5 billion Bipole III transmission line from the western side of the province to the eastern side, even though the Crown corporation has already spent $1.8 billion on it. …[He says] there’s still a chance it could be economically viable to move the line back to the original east side route. In the end, he said, he will listen to recommendations from the Manitoba Hydro board.”

The premier says he will decide within months on this rerouting.

The transmission line is scheduled to be operational in 2018.

If approved, the Energy East pipeline could be in service in 2020.