East Side Road for Communities Not Hydro

Posted on March 11th, 2010

By Susanne McCrea – Boreal Forest Network

Opponents to the West side routing of BiPole III continue to stir the pot, despite a firm decision by the government of Manitoba to not construct the third BiPole down the Eastside of Lake Winnipeg.
The latest criticism levelled at the government of Manitoba is if the government is prepared to proceed with the construction of an all weather road up the East side of Lake Winnipeg than why would they not construct BiPole III to follow alongside the all weather road.

The critics note that the construction of an all weather on the East side would have the same, or a larger environmental foot print, than BiPole III .This statement is simply not true. The two are not comparable. A Bipolar would have an enormously greater impact.

The government announced that it would only proceed to upgrade an all ready existing road that starts at hwy. 304, then goes to Bloodvien First Nations community and then would follow the all weather road construction that would keep, as closely as possible, to the existing winter road route to Berens River First Nation.

No new right of way would need to be cleared to accommodate the construction of an all weather road.
Manitoba Hydro has been clear from the onset that a BiPole down the East side of Lake Winnipeg would need its’ own separate right-of-way that would not be situated alongside a road.

This would mean a new swath of primary intact boreal forest, some 70 meters wide, would need to be cleared to accommodate the BiPole.

This would have enormous impacts on the last remaining herds of Woodland Caribou habitat in Manitoba and to the diminishing populations of North American songbird populations that make the Eastside of Lake Winnipeg their summer home.

On the socio-economic front, the construction of an all weather road to Berens River will help to reduce the cost of goods and services to these communities and help to improve these communities’ conditions by providing lasting employment opportunities.

A BiPole, on the other hand, would only provide short term employment. Once the right-of-way is cleared and the BiPole towers erected there would be no further employment opportunities.

Communities on the Eastside would also not be able to tap into the power for use by communities or for economic development, as the power is for export use and the cost to convert the power for community use would be prohibitive. It is for these reasons that many communities on the East side are opposed to a BiPole on the East side of Lake Winnipeg.

Despite what critics say, a BiPole on the Eastside would jeopardize Manitoba’s chances of receiving UNESCO approval for World Heritage Site designation. Opposition to a BiPole on the Eastside locally, regionally and internationally is substantial and would be a contributing factor in the UNESCO decision making process.
An all weather road on the other hand would enhance the socio-economic opportunities for communities who want to undertake appropriate development activities that will follow with UNESCO World Heritage designation – a clearly stated objective of UNESCO.

From a purely financial point of view the critic’s are correct that the cost of constructing a BiPole down the West side will be more, but governments’ make decisions based on many factors not just on the numbers.
Critic’s would soon find out that the cost of constructing a BiPole down the Eastside of Lake Winnipeg would indeed be very expensive as opposition locally, nationally and internationally would be large and in turn would impact Manitoba Hydro’s export market. There would also be many legal challenges launched on a number of fronts that would delay and possibly kill the project entirely.

Unlike the critic’s, the government appears to understand the many inherent and unnecessary risks associated with the construction of a BiPole on the East side of Lake Winnipeg. They have determined that improving the socio-economic conditions of communities on the Eastside with an all weather road and accommodating the express wishes of some of these communities on the Eastside of Lake Winnipeg to promote and protect their culture and their traditional territory, by seeking UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, makes more economic sense then forcing a BiPole down the Eastside of Lake Winnipeg that no one wants.