I commend our provincial government and Manitoba Hydro for their commitment to keep the proposed major hydro corridor away from the intact boreal forest on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
The assertion that a hydro line and an all-weather road would follow the same route on the east side of Lake Winnipeg has no basis in reality. Roads and hydro corridors have different terrain requirements and public access to transmission lines would be a security risk and increase disturbance to wildlife.
It’s also clear that east side communities will not receive any long term benefits from a major hydro pathway. Local communities would be unable to utilize power from the lines and any jobs created would be short-term positions such as putting up poles and clearing forest. Manitoba Hydro has stated quite clearly that sharing ownership of transmission lines is out of the question. Legal obligations with other utilities in Canada and the United States prevent this possibility.
The involved east side First Nations and the province are taking the right approach by pursuing a World Heritage Site on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. This designation will put the area on the world map as an international destination for eco and cultural tourism – two of the fastest growing industries in the world. As a major hydro corridor would provide little economic or social benefits to the communities and would negatively affect the environment and emerging tourism industry, it would reduce the chances of the east side being approved by the U.N. as a World Heritage Site.
Constructing a major hydro corridor elsewhere in the province may cost more initially but the long-term payback of keeping it away from the east side will far outweigh this factor. Local communities will have more opportunity for social, cultural, and economic benefits with a World Heritage Site and a communities-approved road that meets the best environmental standards possible.
Of great importance, the east side of Lake Winnipeg is part of the Earth’s largest intact section of boreal forest. The boreal forest is the world’s largest source of fresh water, the northern lungs of the planet, and as the largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon, it plays a huge role in slowing the advance of climate change. These ecological services are life-sustaining and essential to the healthy future of all life.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Manitoba chapter