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.”

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Sexual assault investigations at hydroelectric project alarming: chief

The grand chief who represents First Nations in northern Manitoba says it's alarming that RCMP have investigated nine sexual assault allegations at one power station construction site.

Garrison Settee expects the number could be higher, but says many Indigenous people do no report to police because other alleged assaults linked to Manitoba Hydro projects weren't taken seriously.

RCMP said last week that officers have conducted nine sexual assault investigations since 2015 at the Keeyask Generating Station and four resulted in charges.

Three other individuals declined to press charges and in two cases the alleged victims declined to participate in the investigation.

Manitoba Hydro says employees who were charged have had their site access to Keeyask revoked.

A report released last year by the province's Clean Environment Commission — an arm's-length review agency — outlined discrimination and sexual abuse at Manitoba Hydro work sites in the 1960s and 1970s.

The report said the arrival of a largely male construction workforce led to the sexual abuse of Indigenous women. Some alleged their complaints to RCMP were ignored. The report also said there was racial tension, environmental degradation and an end to the traditional way of life for some Indigenous people.


"I question why it takes this long for Indigenous people's issues to be addressed in a way that is fair," he said Monday. "All of these things in other societies are dealt with immediately and dealt with to the fullest extent of the law, but that has not been afforded to our people."

Manitoba Hydro did not comment on the details of any investigations, but spokesman Bruce Owen said in an email that the Crown utility does not tolerate illegal or exploitative behaviour.

Owen pointed to multiple company policies and initiatives, including working with Tracia's Trust, a Manitoba strategy to address sexual exploitation and to curb harassment and discrimination.

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires has called the allegations in the commission's report disturbing and said she referred the issue to the RCMP.

Another report, released in 2017 and looking specifically into the Keeyask station's workplace culture, found discrimination and harassment targeting Indigenous employees.

One employee said they were being sexually harassed, but were too afraid to do anything because of retaliation.

The four First Nations which are part of the Keeyask Hydroelectric Limited Partnership have repeatedly raised concerns about sexual violence at hydro development sites. York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant has called for an inquiry into Manitoba Hydro's development in the north.