Most municipal leader s attending last week’s Association of Manitoba Municipalities convention said they want the province to reroute its proposed Bipole III high-voltage transmission line down the eastern side of Lake Winnipeg.
But the province is not about to make “reckless changes of direction,” said Premier Greg Selinger, who made a brief appearance AMM last week.
He spoke to reporters following the vote which calls on the AMM to lobby in opposition to the west route.
Delegates from the municipalities where the line would cross cited a range of concerns, including the effect of the power lines on farm practices such as global positioning systems or hindering aerial spray applicators.
The costs of the longer route are a major concern, said Ted Tkachyk, reeve of the R.M. of Grey, and one of four municipalities to put the resolution forward.
“The extra costs will be paid by Manitoba hydro users,” he said.
Selinger said there is “a lot of flexibility on the route” regarding specific siting of the towers. “There’s a broad corridor that Hydro will work with local landowners on.”
As for the chosen route itself, Selinger said his government does not want to jeopardize the entire project by switching sides. The western route has the least impact on the boreal forest to the east, and therefore will not raise environmental concerns among future customers, he said, adding millions of dollars of hydro revenues are at stake, and that a route change could result in lawsuits, red tape and litigation that delays the project indefinitely.
“We want to avoid a reckless approach,” he said. “We want to take a sensible approach that takes into account the realities out there in the marketplace, and realities are that people want a good source of clean power.”
The NDP government also ran on this as an election promise and wants to preserve the east side boreal forest in a bid for a UNESCO Heritage site, he added.
AMM president, Doug Dobrowolski, who is also an R.M. of Macdonald councillor, another of the four municipalities to sponsor the resolution, said AMM will be putting this issue right on par with its other key issue of infrastructure funding.
“We’re going to keep pushing on this and see what the province has to say.”
NOT ALL AGREE
Not all delegates agreed the AMM, which represents all 198 municipalities, should be adopting the position on Bipole III.
Ron Kostyshyn, reeve of the R.M. of Mossey River, said during debate the matter was best left to individual municipalities opposing the western route to deal directly with Hydro and the province, rather than the entire AMM taking a stand.
In an interview, Kostyshyn added that the implications of an eastern route, including the foreseeable delays in construction don’t seem well understood.
“I think there’s a lot more information that needs to be unveiled by the province of Manitoba explaining why they feel the western part of the province should happen,” he said.
“There is a lack of dialogue information for the reasoning why an east portion may not be the best solution in the long run.”
A delay in construction, if the route went down the east side will cost Manitobans too, he said.
“My major concern is we cannot afford to jeopardize the potential revenue for Manitoba in the delay of the construction of the line,” said Kostyshyn, who is one of 15 directors of the AMM.
“If we’re going to delay it to save money, but on the other hand lose potential revenue for the province, we don’t do justice to the ratepayers of Manitoba.”
R.M. of Mossey River has consulted with Hydro officials and believes that the key concerns of landowners can be dealt with, he added.