Manitoba Hydro & Megadams

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Manitoba Hydro & Megadams

Manitoba’s hydro mess points to Canada’s larger problem with megadams

For eight years, Graham Lane headed a watchdog commission that raised red flag after red flag about the Keeyask dam hydro project on Manitoba’s Nelson River.

Politicians ignored the warnings and in 2012 Lane resigned as chair of Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board, concerned that Manitoba Hydro had strayed far from its main purpose — to provide low cost energy to Manitobans.

Now the retired chartered accountant is speaking out in the hopes of stemming the losses from the Keeyask dam project and a related transmission line, which he calls “an albatross around the necks of Manitobans.”

“In Manitoba basically everything has gone wrong,” Lane told The Narwhal. “It’s quite a disaster.”

Even though the utilities board kept flagging “runaway expenses and changing markets” as reasons to reassess the projects, Lane said the provincial government “just kept going” while the price tag for the dam and transmission line soared from $9.8 billion to almost $14 billion, with the dam’s final cost potentially $2 billion more.

“I’d had enough. I hung up my skates. I waited my year away. And then I started writing columns about it.”....

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..more frome the above piece


‘Vast majority of Canadians don’t even know what Keeyask is’

The lesser known Keeyask dam joins B.C.’s Site C dam and Labrador’s Muskrat Falls dam on the list of hugely over budget big hydro projects currently under construction in Canada.

“Keeyask seems to fly beneath the radar,” said Garland Laliberte, a dean of engineering emeritus at the University of Manitoba. “Muskrat Falls gets a lot of exposure and even Site C gets more coverage. I think the vast majority of Canadians don’t even know what Keeyask is let alone what problems it’s causing in this province.”

Four years into construction 730 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, the Keeyask dam will inundate 93 square kilometres of the Nelson River and boreal taiga lands or “snow forests” of pine, spruce and larch. It will destroy spawning areas and other habitat for fish such as sturgeon and result in habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation for caribou, moose and beaver.

Like the Muskrat Falls and Site C dams, the Keeyask project will also have a significant impact on Indigenous peoples, eliminating trapping, fishing and hunting sites in the traditional territory of Treaty 5 nations. The dam, which will be built at Gull Rapids, is named after the Cree word for gull.

With three large dams in the works, Canada is bucking the trend in Europe and North America, where the unacceptable price tag and profound social and environmental impacts of large hydro projects means that more big dams are being dismantled than are being built.

Laliberte said the global energy market has changed far faster than Canada’s politicians realized, as the price of wind and solar energy plummets, new energy storage options become available and the cost of building large hydro dams soars, in part because of hefty payouts to affected Indigenous communities.

Manitoba Hydro, for instance, has paid $169 million to First Nations who will be impacted by the project and is expected to pay out another $100 million.

“I think the main driver is politicians not understanding the market and thinking that it’s good to be seen to be investing, in all three cases, in renewable energy and thinking it’s going to fly,” Laliberte said in an interview.

“And our politicians were too busy doing other things and they believed that the market doesn’t change. And, of course what happened is that the speed of change now is so much greater than it was even 10 years ago and these guys went out on a limb and they got caught.”