BiPole 3 Decision

A Reality Check – Debunking BiPole III Myths:

Those opposing the government of Manitoba’s decision to build BiPole III on the west side of the province point to six main reasons for their opposition.

Myth #1:

BiPole III will cost more to go down the west side of the province than the east side.

In Reality:

On the surface this statement is correct, as the west side route for BiPole III will have some $400 million of additional upfront costs plus another $240 million for line loss. While this may be a lot of money, in reality the additional costs of building Bipole 3 on the west side amounts to only 3% of Manitoba Hydro’s total capital program for the next decade. That’s the difference between paying $1.09 for a loaf of bread instead of $1.06.

However, if the government of Manitoba were to reconsider its decision and construct BiPole III down the east side of Lake Winnipeg, through the intact Heart of the Boreal forest, these savings would be eaten up very quickly.

First, a community benefits agreement, costing the government of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro untold amounts of taxpayer’s dollars, would have to be negotiated first with each and every First Nations communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg due to legislation that is specific to this region. These communities  exist off of this land to this day, and all land on the east side is traditional territory.

Both the provincial and federal environmental review process and the First Nations community consultation process, required by law, for such a project would be a much more expensive, time consuming process if a BiPole III was constructed down the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Hundreds of flights to visit these remote communities would be necessary for proper consultations and planning. In addition a number of First Nations communities on the east side have expressed their opposition to a BiPole III running through their traditional territory down the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Along with these First Nations, environmental and justice groups would also use this opportunity to slow down the process and undertake potential court challenges leading to more taxpayer’s dollars being spent to fend off court actions.

Myth # 2:

The construction of an all weather road on the east side of Lake Winnipeg will have larger impacts than BiPole III down the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

In Reality:

Much of the east side all weather road (132 km in total) being contemplated for construction in the foreseeable future already exists. The first 76 kilometers is already an all-weather road that is being upgraded (the Rice River road). The remainder of the 56 kilometers from Bloodvein to Berens River will follow the existing winter road, a right-of-way which is already cleared. (See for more details.)

On the other hand, the construction of BiPole III down the east side would mean hundreds of kilometers of the greatest remaining intact boreal forest in the world would have to be cleared. The right-of-way would be at least 50 meters wide to accommodate this High Voltage Direct Current Transmission line. For liability purposes, the line would not necessarily follow any road system on the east side. Logistically, it makes little sense to run a road and a major hydro corridor along the same route on the east side.  .  Following a straight line from the northern dam or converter station down to a southern converter station would likely be the preferred approach by Manitoba Hydro. The road, however, just as all roads in the boreal region (think of the road through the Whiteshell Park), will wind over higher rock ridges and avoid lowland swamps, and go from community to community. An east side BiPole III that followed an east side road network may be several hundred kilometers longer than a straight line route, increasing construction and line loss costs.

In addition, a BiPole down the east side would have to traverse through the range of several threatened woodland caribou herds. Caribou have been shown to relocate 20 kilometers way from a clearing in the years following a disturbance. This means a 600-kilometer line could result in the loss of 24,000 square kilometers of habitat! The line would also have severe impacts on migrating songbirds’ spring and summer breeding habitat.

Myth #3:

The UNESCO World Heritage site nomination bid for the Eastside of Lake Winnipeg would not be jeopardized by BiPole III if it were to be constructed down the East side of Lake Winnipeg.

In Reality:

The proposed 4.3 million hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Heart of the Boreal on the east side of Lake Winnipeg is being nominated for both its universally outstanding cultural and natural values. BiPole III will impact the culture and nature on the east side, and despite what some people claim, Hydro development will jeopardize the UNESCO bid.

Some of the First Nation communities in Manitoba who have nominated their traditional territories as part of the proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site have expressed their opposition to a BiPole III down the east side of Lake Winnipeg and through their traditional land use areas.  . Because of this opposition, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Committee would likely look upon the BiPole development negatively.

In 2009, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador just recently reversed its decision to construct a BiPole through Gross Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because they were informed that doing so could jeopardize the parks’ UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. See

In the spring of 2010, the B.C. government announced a ban on mining and oil and gas development in the Flathead River Valley because a United Nations team of experts visited the region and called for a moratorium on any potential future development in the region as it would have an impact on Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO took the severe step of removing the World Heritage Site designation from Germany’s Dresden Elbe River Valley in 2009, after construction began on a 4-lane bridge through the heart of the area.

Myth #4:

BiPole III would provide lasting economic benefits to First Nation communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

In Reality:

A BiPole built down the east side of Lake Winnipeg, once erected, would have little or no lasting or permanent employment prospects or economic benefits for First Nation communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. After initial construction, there will be few dedicated jobs associated with this line. In addition, Manitoba Hydro has stated that they will not enter into a joint ownership revenue sharing agreement with First Nations. Nor could First Nation communities on the east side tap into BiPole III for power, as the line is a High Voltage Direct Current (DC) line. To do so would require prohibitively expensive converter stations at each community, in order to convert the electricity to useable Alternating Current (AC).

Myth #5:

The western route for BiPole III would have more environmental impacts then the eastern route.

In Reality:

Much of the proposed BiPole III routing options for the west side are through already fragmented and converted lands.

The east side of Lake Winnipeg, on the other hand, has been recognized by the global scientific community as the largest primary intact forest left in the northern hemisphere, second in size only to the Amazon rainforest. The boreal forest is one of the greatest global storehouses of carbon, which is critical to mitigating climate change.

Myth #6:

Building BiPole III down the east side of Lake Winnipeg through the Heart of the Boreal would not hurt our export sales to the United States.

In Reality:

There are  organizations both in Canada and the United States who stand at the ready to mount a consumer awareness campaign in the United States should the Manitoba government decide to reverse its decision to keep BiPole III out of the east side. The citizens in these groups are telling their governments to ensure that the electricity they purchase comes from sources that don’t destroy an essential environment like the Heart of the Boreal. This is called a market initiative, and it would create serious problems for Manitoba Hydro.

Over the years, more than 30,000 letters have poured in to the government of Manitoba by individuals from the United States, expressing their support for a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the east side of Lake Winnipeg and their opposition to any form of large scale industrial development in the area. More than 13,000 Manitobans have also sent in letters, asking that the integrity of the Heart of the Boreal be protected.

See Also: