Government Accused Of Stifling Bipole Opposition

A war of words continues to escalate over Manitoba Hydro’s decision to run the Bipole III transmission line down the west side of the province.

Farmers at a heated Oct. 25 legislative committee meeting were fuming after the committee refused to hear their concerns about the project.

The Progressive Conservative opposition accused the NDP government of muzzling producers who object to the line crossing their farms.

“They don’t want to hear anything that disagrees with their position,” PC Leader Hugh McFadyen said later.

But the government remained firm, calling Bipole III necessary for the province’s electricity needs.

“Manitoba Hydro is building the line because Manitobans need more power,” said Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk, who is also responsible for the Crown corporation.

VOTED DOWN

NDP members on the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations used their majority to vote down an opposition motion to hear presentations from farmers and engineers critical of the western route for the controversial line.

Opponents say the 500-kilovolt line should take a shorter, cheaper route along the eastern side of Lake Winnipeg instead of the western route through prime agricultural land.

Hydro opted for the western route at the province’s urging because the eastern route would take the line through an environmentally sensitive boreal forest.

Over 100 people attending the committee meeting noisily voiced their disapproval at not being allowed to speak against the project.

Karen Friesen had a six-page written presentation on behalf of farmers opposed to the project but was unable to read it into the record.

Later, she said the line will miss the house and livestock barns on the home quarter of her family farm southeast of Niverville by only 600 feet.

Friesen listed three concerns about the line: its effect on farmers’ ability to work their fields, health and safety issues for humans and livestock, and the impact on Manitoba taxpayers of the more expensive western route.

“Every single person who I’ve talked to is absolutely up in arms about this,” she said. “It’s cutting across the most expensive and intensive farmland in Manitoba.”

UP IN ARMS

A Manitoba Hydro brochure on Bipole III says landowners “will be able to continue farming the land under the transmission line as they have prior to any towers being erected.”

Wowchuk met with a group of concerned landowners Oct. 26. Afterwards, she said she would take their concerns under consideration.

“People have concerns about the line going over their property and what the impact will be on agriculture. Those were the issues that were raised today and we said we would get back to them.”

Manitoba Hydro has promised to compensate landowners whose properties are affected by the line. The package includes payment for a right-of-way and a fee for every tower built on the land.

Friesen said her family won’t accept compensation “at any price” and vowed to fight the line’s incursion, although she wouldn’t say how.

Bipole III has to receive environmental approval before it is built. An application will go before the Clean Environment Commission in 2011. If approved, construction will begin in 2012. [email protected]

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“It’s cutting across the most expensive and intensive farmland in Manitoba.”

– KAREN FRIESEN

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