Last Updated: 2013/07/10 10:03:50 PM
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF
CEC REPORT OF BIPOLE III TRANSMISSION PROJECT
On December 5, 2011, the Minister of Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship requested that the Clean Environment Commission conduct public hearings into the proposal by Manitoba Hydro to build the Bipole III Transmission Project. The Commission was asked to report and evaluate both the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Manitoba Hydro’s public consultation process for the Project. The Commission was further mandated to provide a recommendation as to whether an Environment Act licence should be issued for the Project. Should the Commission recommend issuing a licence, the report was to include recommendations for any appropriate mitigation measures for environmental, socio-economic, and cultural impacts and management of residual effects of the Project. The report was also to contain appropriate recommendations for future monitoring of the Bipole III Project.
Public hearings on the Bipole III Project lasted for 10 weeks, from October 1 to November 22, 2012, and from March 4 to 14, 2013. During this time, the Commission heard a great deal of testimony from Manitoba Hydro’s staff and contracted experts, expert witnesses retained by Participants in the hearing process, and interested members of the public. The Commission has considered this evidence, in combination with Manitoba Hydro’s Environmental Impact Statement and supporting Technical Reports.
The EIS identified four major concerns about potential environment impacts from the Project: impacts on boreal woodland caribou in northern Manitoba, specifically three caribou herds whose range will be traversed by the Bipole III transmission line, and potential impacts on public safety, travel and transportation, and community services resulting from the large influx of workers to the Gillam area during the construction of the Kewatinoow Converter Station at the northern end of the transmission line. In addition to these previously identified concerns, the Commission heard a variety of concerns about community health impacts resulting from the influx of new workers to the Gillam area, possible impacts on domestic resource use, including plant harvesting, at several points along the line, increases in access for hunters and predators made possible by the transmission line, and a wide variety of potential impacts on agricultural practices in the areas traversed by the line.
After consideration of the body of evidence, the Commission recommends to the minister that the Bipole III Project be approved for a licence under The Environment Act. The Commission recommends that a number of conditions be attached to this licence in order to provide some assurance that the goals of the Bipole III Project can be met without compromising the environment of Manitoba. Some of these conditions refer to prevention or mitigation of environmental effects resulting from construction of the transmission line and other project components. Others refer to monitoring of the effects of the construction, cooperation and maintenance of the Project, in order to ensure that possible problems can be identified and rectified.
In addition to these licensing recommendations, the Commission has also made certain recommendations for improvements to Manitoba Hydro’s consultation, environmental assessment and monitoring activities and for improvements to the processes and protocols governing environmental assessment generally in Manitoba.
These recommendations are issued in response to the many concerns about the quality of the Bipole III EIS expressed by Participant groups, members of the public, experts in the field of environmental assessment, and members of the Commission itself. Manitoba Hydro’s consultation activities, particularly with Aboriginal communities, and its methodology for assessing cumulative effects of the Bipole III Project were identified as particularly in need of improvement.
It is the hope of the Commission that an improved process for conducting environment assessment, combined with improvements in the resources and processes for environmental assessment at Manitoba Hydro, will allow hearings on future projects to occur more smoothly. More importantly, these improvements will help to ensure that Manitobans can be confident that their province’s environment is protected, now and into the future.