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Bipole III Raises Farmers’ Concerns About Land Impacts

“These high-voltage power lines are so big that going over top or underneath isn’t an option.”

– DOUG CHORNEY, KAP

Questions about its impact on agriculture surround a new Manitoba Hydro high-voltage transmission line planned from the North that will ultimately run through some of the best farmland in the province.

Producers want to know if the line will take land out of production, hinder access to fields or otherwise affect their ability to farm.

“Anything that impedes the access to arable land is going to reduce productive capacity,” said Doug Chorney, a Keystone Agricultural Producers representative,

“On behalf of our membership, we need to be sure that Hydro is sensitive to the importance of maintaining land and access to property.”

Called Bipole III, the line will link a generating station on the Lower Nelson River in northern Manitoba with a converter station in the Rural Municipality of Springfield east of Winnipeg.

Three routes are proposed: two down the west side of Lake Manitoba and one down the western edge of the province. All three would turn east and run south of Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg

before ending up at the Springfield station.

Manitoba Hydro says it will select the preferred route next year. The entire Bipole III project is slated for completion in 2017.

The proposed western route has created controversy ever since Hydro chose it over a less expensive route down the east side of Lake Winnipeg to bypass ecologically sensitive boreal forest.

KAP opposes the west side route because of its possible impact on farmland.

But Hydro officials at an information open house on Bipole III said the western route has been decided on and the only question now is which of the three options to choose.

Patrick McGarry, an environmental assessment officer, said Hydro will select the route with the least impact on agricultural land and provide compensation as required.

There are three aspects to compensation, McGarry said. First, Hydro negotiates easements with landowners to erect self-supporting steel lattice towers across the land (three towers

per mile). Hydro reimburses landowners at fair market value for land taken out of production by the tower footprint. Producers are also compensated for any damage caused by construction, such as crop losses, soil compaction or fence repair.

But Chorney said high-voltage lines can cause farmers other problems, such as interfering with global positioning systems or hindering aerial spray applicators.

“If you need to do an aerial application because of a bertha army worm outbreak (and) if you’ve got power lines, that’s going to affect the application,” said Chorney, who has power lines running across his own farm near East Selkirk.

“These high-voltage power lines are so big that going over top or underneath isn’t an option. They’ve got to bypass them because they’re just too tall and dangerous.”

Marc Wankling, a Hydro property representative, said power lines interfering with aerial spraying has never been an issue with farmers before. If crop dusters spray parallel to power lines, spray drift should carry to crops underneath the lines, he said.

As for power lines interfering with global positioning systems, Wankling said there’s very little farmland in Manitoba where GPS operators don’t have to adjust for some obstruction, such as boulders, trees or potholes.

The Oakbank open house was one of 18 held by Hydro throughout Manitoba between Nov. 16 and Dec. 16. Hydro will choose its preferred route this coming spring and discuss it at another round of public consultations later in 2010, McGarry said.

Hydro will also require environmental approvals before beginning construction. [email protected]

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