Hy­dro told to take en­vi­ron­ment, In­dige­nous peo­ple into ac­count

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - NICK MARTIN nick.martin@freep­ress.mb.ca

THE Clean En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sion has urged Man­i­toba Hy­dro to avoid or limit any ef­fects its projects have on ar­eas im­por­tant to In­dige­nous peo­ple.

In ap­prov­ing a pro­posed trans­mis­sion line to Min­nesota, the com­mis­sion told the Crown cor­po­ra­tion to pay at­ten­tion to the wishes of In­dige­nous peo­ple as it con­structs the line, and to con­tinue pay­ing at­ten­tion on fu­ture projects.

The com­mis­sion wants the pro­vin­cial Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment depart­ment to work closely with Hy­dro and the pub­lic to mon­i­tor the ef­fects of the new trans­mis­sion line for at least 10 years.

Faced with run­ning the trans­mis­sion line through farm­land and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, or through en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive for­est and wet­land ar­eas in south­east­ern Man­i­toba, the com­mis­sion opted to take some of both.

The com­mis­sion said its de­ci­sion was a “trade-off between dif­fer­ing view­points.”

“Some ar­gu­ments were pro­vided to the panel that Man­i­toba Hy­dro de­vel­op­ments should be moved onto ‘sparsely pop­u­lated land’ (Crown land), in part so that ‘nat­u­ral’ habi­tats could re­main on pri­vate prop­erty. Th­ese ar­gu­ments are per­fectly un­der­stand­able from the per­spec­tive of peo­ple who work hard to build an agri­cul­tural op­er­a­tion or a home in a ru­ral set­ting which they want to pro­tect. At the same time, to sim­ply move de­vel­op­ment fur­ther into the ‘sparsely pop­u­lated’ lands would ac­cel­er­ate the frag­men­ta­tion” of those ar­eas, wrote the com­mis­sion.

Hy­dro is re­view­ing the re­port, me­dia re­la­tions of­fi­cer Bruce Owen said.

“Man­i­toba Hy­dro will con­tinue to en­gage In­dige­nous peo­ples and area res­i­dents as it moves along in the reg­u­la­tory re­view process. Man­i­toba Hy­dro will con­tinue to have an open door to con­ver­sa­tions about the project with those in­ter­ested,” he said.

“Fur­ther, Man­i­toba Hy­dro has had, and plans to con­tinue to have, a strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Man­i­toba Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment.”

An of­fi­cial with the depart­ment said the govern­ment will talk to Hy­dro be­fore com­ment­ing.

The com­mis­sion ac­knowl­edged Hy­dro has im­proved its com­mu­ni­ca­tions since hear­ings five years ago for the Bipole III megapro­ject.

Nev­er­the­less, the com­mis­sion said, it rec­om­mended “Hy­dro take steps, in fu­ture projects, to fa­cil­i­tate Abo­rig­i­nal tra­di­tional knowl­edge and land and re­source use stud­ies be­ing com­pleted in time to be in­cor­po­rated into the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment.

“Man­i­toba Hy­dro (should) es­tab­lish and sup­port a mon­i­tor­ing ad­vi­sory group com­posed of nom­i­nees of First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties and the Man­i­toba Metis Fed­er­a­tion and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lo­cal res­i­dents, in­ter­ested non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and aca­demic re­searchers, which will pro­vide in­put into mon­i­tor­ing and man­age­ment of the (right-of-way),” said the rul­ing.

“The com­mis­sion will be en­cour­ag­ing Man­i­toba Hy­dro to be­come a leader in right-of-way man­age­ment and in en­gage­ment of af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and landown­ers in the on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing of the project,” the com­mis­sion said.

“The com­mis­sion will pro­pose that Man­i­toba Hy­dro and the Depart­ment of Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, with the agree­ment of the com­mu­ni­ties, in­te­grate the var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties and in­ter­ests into one mon­i­tor­ing process to lessen po­lar­iz­ing points of view, and pro­vide for a process that brings to­gether di­verse per­spec­tives in or­der to help min­i­mize project im­pacts.”

The com­mis­sion also in­structed Hy­dro to avoid harm to cer­tain species when con­struct­ing its lines.

“Man­i­toba Hy­dro (should) con­duct field sur­veys of the east­ern tiger sala­man­der and mot­tled dusky­wing but­ter­fly, in ar­eas of likely habi­tat, prior to construction,” the com­mis­sion said, and “ex­pand point-count and breed­ing bird sur­veys, to in­clude the least bit­tern and the short-eared owl, prior to construction.” THE Man­i­toba-Min­nesota Trans­mis­sion Project re­in­forces the need to re­write en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion, says Wilder­ness Com­mit­tee Man­i­toba cam­paign co-or­di­na­tor Eric Reder.

"The (elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion line) is go­ing through a tran­si­tion area, between open de­vel­oped and rea­son­ably in­tact for­est. This area is rich in bio­di­ver­sity. It's a tough thing to see more de­vel­op­ment," Reder said Thurs­day.

"The Wilder­ness Com­mit­tee per­spec­tive is that we would rather see de­vel­op­ment in al­ready de­vel­oped land. There is a vis­i­ble and fi­nite cost, which we pay to the landown­ers. The loss of bio­di­ver­sity, at some point, be­comes an in­valu­able loss."

Reder said the Man­i­toba Clean En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sion's (CEC) call for en­hanced li­cens­ing re­quire­ments “echoes the Wilder­ness Com­mit­tee call from 2012 to re­write the En­vi­ron­ment Act. The pre­vi­ous (NDP) govern­ment ac­tu­ally fi­nally agreed with us, af­ter a lot of grief, and com­mit­ted to re­write the En­vi­ron­ment Act."

A coali­tion rep­re­sent­ing the Con­sumers' As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada and Win­nipeg Har­vest still has con­cerns, lawyer Joëlle Pas­tora Sala said.

She pointed out it's still up to Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Rochelle Squires to de­cide on im­ple­ment­ing the CEC's rec­om­men­da­tions.

"The MMTP was seen as pretty de­fen­si­ble among a pack­age of trou­bled projects. The MMTP pro­vides ex­panded ac­cess to the Amer­i­can mar­ket at peak times (for ex­am­ple, on par­tic­u­larly hot or cold days) and serves as a re­li­a­bil­ity backup for Man­i­toba (for ex­am­ple, in times of drought)," Sala said.

The project is 25 per cent over bud­get, she said. "The es­ti­mated project cost was in the range of

$350 mil­lion. It was re­vealed dur­ing the MMTP hear­ing process the up­dated to­tal project cost es­ti­mate was $

453.2 mil­lion.

"De­spite this sig­nif­i­cant rise in project cost es­ti­mate, Man­i­toba Hy­dro did not con­duct any sub­se­quent anal­y­sis of project ex­pen­di­tures for ma­te­ri­als and ser­vices dur­ing construction," Sala said.

Man­i­toba Kee­wati­nowi Oki­makanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wil­son and renowned water-qual­ity ex­pert Eva Pip (a re­tired bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Win­nipeg) were still study­ing the re­port Thurs­day.

The NDP will not be mak­ing any com­ment, said Rorie Mcleod Arnould, press sec­re­tary for leader Wab Kinew.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Clean En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sion has ap­proved a Man­i­toba-Min­nesota trans­mis­sion line.

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