To build or not to build?

September 12, 2012

Bipole III major hydro corridor and northern dams

September 2012

The public debate has largely centered on the question of where do we erect a Bipole III major hydro transmission line – on the east or west side of the province? Now we are asking the most important questions, the ones we should have discussed first. To build or not to build? Is it good for Manitoba to construct Bipole III and the northern dams that would feed it?

Economically, it may have seemed more lucrative in the early part of this century.  According to Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett, the forecast now for future Manitoba hydro export sales is highly uncertain. Customers in our most profitable export region to the south are losing their craving for our electricity as they are increasingly generating their own.

With all certainty, hundreds of kilometers of BiPole III transmission lines, no matter what route, will have substantial environmental impacts such as slicing through the ranges of threatened woodland caribou herds.

Many communities and landowners along the proposed BiPole III route either don’t want it in their backyard or want to be financially compensated if it is. These negotiations are challenging, time-consuming, and the results will likely be very expensive. Many are concerned that this may be another factor that drives up household and business hydro bills.

The good news is that we are now asking if we should build BiPole III and more hydro dams. We can return the horse to the front of the cart. Kudos to the Manitobans who do their homework to ensure they understand this complicated issue and speak their minds about it. Our political leaders who weigh the many socio, economic, and environmental aspects to make often tough and sometimes controversial choices also deserve an accolade. With open and informed public and political debate, the likelihood of good decisions regarding the potential of Bipole III, dams, and the future of Manitoba is highly increased.

Ron Thiessen

Executive Director
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Manitoba chapter

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