Farmers along the established route for the new Bipole III transmission line are asking Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn to advocate on their behalf.
While the massive high-voltage transmission project wasn’t included in Kostyshyn’s prepared remarks at Ag Days last week, it was raised following a speech Jan. 21.
“We’re just asking to negotiate, that’s all,” said Jürgen Kohler, who farms near Brunkild and represents the Bipole III Landowner Committee.
To the minister, Kohler said, “We were wondering if you would be an advocate for us, because despite the expropriation, we still think there is an opportunity to negotiate a good business agreement.”
Although he was the only representative of his organization present, Kohler said that the committee represents about 200 landowners. Roughly 120 of those landowners have also joined the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations in the hopes of collectively negotiating a deal.
So far, Manitoba Hydro has not sat down with the association and in November of last year, an order-in-council was put before Manitoba’s executive council authorizing expropriation.
Kohler said he received a letter in the mail recently regarding the expropriation of his land, but how much was being expropriated and where wasn’t clear to him.
“It’s been frustrating,” he said.
Kostyshyn said he was willing to speak to Kohler about his concerns with the Manitoba Hydro development, but added that he couldn’t speak on behalf of the Crown corporation.
“As I indicated to the landowner, I will talk to Minister Robinson and will get together with the landowner and have some further discussion,” said Kostyshyn, referring to Minister Eric Robinson, who is responsible for Manitoba Hydro. “I definitely will continue to advocate for farmers and producers.”
Many producers have also expressed concerns about liability issues around the transmission line and the towers that will support it.
“From a liability perspective it’s huge,” said Kohler. “Right now when I hit one of those skinny hydro poles, I’m being charged $10,000… Well if I hit a tower that’s $500,000 in value, what’s my liability? Why would I sign an agreement if I don’t know for sure?”
Producers affected by the transmission line have also cited worries about crop contamination and the spread of pathogens, via inadequately cleaned Hydro vehicles.
But while expropriation has begun, Kohler felt the minister’s willingness to talk was a good sign.
“That’s why I’m interested in trying to salvage something… we can still sit down,” he said.