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BiPole III 500 kV HVDC Transmission Project

transmission lines Approximately 75% of Manitoba Hydro generating capacity is delivered by the Bipoles I and II HV direct current transmission lines which travel to southern Manitoba (Winnipeg) through a single corridor (Interlake region). This transmission system is vulnerable to the risk of catastrophic outages if both Bipole lines and/or the Dorsey Converter Station are damaged due to severe weather events. Manitoba Hydro's intended solution to this problem is construction of a third direct current bipole, known as Bipole III.

The line will originate at a new northern converter station site near the proposed Conawapa Generation Station (dam) site east of Gillam in northern Manitoba. It is also likely to cross the project areas for three intended new generation stations. It will terminate at a new converter station at the Riel Site east of Winnipeg, in the Rural Municipality of Springfield.

Manitoba Hydro has initiated a Site Selection and Environmental Assessment (SSEA) process to select a route for the Bipole III transmission line. Site Selection is a four-stage public consultation process, designed to educate the public on the project and collect feedback. The four consultation stages are:
  1. Introduction of project to the public
  2. site selection and environmental assessment (SSEA) process
  3. alternative route selection and
Additionally, Manitoba Hydro has committed to seeking Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge as well as science-based knowledge for use in assessment of this project. Manitoba Hydro is currently (October 2009) in the third round of consultation with the fourth consultation scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.

The Manitoba Hydro website does not identify the requirements for Aboriginal consultations, and accommodation of any potential impacts on Aboriginal rights. Potentially both the provincial crown and federal crown (government) will have responsibility for meaningful consultation, while the utility continues its staged consultations.

In late July 2010 the preferred corridor route was selected by Manitoba Hydro. Manitoba government policy, and direction to Manitoba Hydro, was to select a route for Bipole III on the west side of the province. Specifically the Manitoba government has directed the publicly owned utility to avoid the boreal forest regions east of Lake Winnipeg as a route for Bipole III.

View Bipole III Project Concept information
View Manitoba Government Public Registry file #5433
downloadDownload September 2009 Bipole III Newsletter #3 (PDF)
downloadDownload Alternative Routes Map (PDF)



Bipole III: Energy Reliability or Export Sales?

By Gaile Whelan Enns

Manitobans are familiar with news coverage, and the political storm about the Bipole III corridor. But Manitobans are not familiar with the Bipole III process. In fact there is little information and discussion, compared to the Wuskwatim hearings and media coverage in 2003, 2004, 2005.

So the 1400 km direct current (DC) 500 kv Bipole III line may be a big yawn. Or it may be the key to how we make decisions about energy, our economy, Aboriginal rights, and Manitoba’s economy into the future.

The public process started in 2009. Manitoba Hydro has been planning Bipole III for many years. The first effort, over twenty years ago, to build Conawapa generation station, included three options for a 500 kv DC transmission corridor from top to the bottom of Manitoba’s east side. (east of Lake Winnipeg.)

View the rest of the article

Bipole III Environment Act Licence Appeals
transmission tower In September 2013 Manitoba Wildlnds appealed the Bipole III environment act licence. Various other communities and organizations also appealed the licence. These appeals are not provided in the public registry in Manitoba’s regulatory system.

We're providing those September 2013 licence appeal comments here.

In January 2014 Manitoba Justice determined a further appeal to cabinet of the Bipole III licence is required. The basis for their determination have not been procided. Those organizations, individuals and communities who appealed the Bipole III licence in September 2013 were notified. Some were able to participate in the steps required for the appeal to cabinet. It is not clear how the appeals filed in September 2013 will be assessed, or whether the appeal to cabinet process cancels those appeals of the Bipole III licence.

Manitoba Wildlands filed its remarks about the appeal to cabinet of the Bipole III environment act licence, and they are provided here.

View January 17, 2014 Manitoba Wildlands letter

Cabinet to Review Bipole III Transmission Project
Manitoba Hydro logo Manitoba Justice has determined an appeal to cabinet is required for Manitoba Hydro's controversial Bipole III transmission project. The project is intended to be a new 500 kv direct current line from northern Manitoba, to the east side of Winnipeg. The transmission project licence includes a new converter station, to be situated on the east side of Winnipeg, on lands assembled in 2009. The project starts in the multi hydro project zone along the Nelson River where Manitoba Hydro aims to build two new generation stations, multiple short transmission lines, and a new converter station.

Bipole III is one of several projects Manitoba Hydro presents to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) in hearings March and April 2014. This is the first time a multi project development plan from Manitoba Hydro has been reviewed by the PUB. The Clean Environment Commission (CEC) hearings regarding Bipole III were held in fall 2012, and early 2013. All participants in the hearings asked the CEC to not recommend a licence be issued

The Environment Act licence for Bipole III was issued in August 2013, with an appeal period of 30 days. Numerous appeals were filed, including from multiple Manitoba First Nations. Each appellant will soon start to receive materials with deadlines to respond in writing for each stage of the appeal to cabinet. It is unclear how those times stages will work given how many appellants are outside Winnipeg.

Several laws in Manitoba leave a last option for appeal to cabinet. Ministers who have responsibility for decisions with aspects of Bipole III are not part of the appeal hearing in cabinet. There have been past instances of in person appeal hearings with cabinet under Manitoba laws.

The Bipole III appeal to cabinet will be a paper process for appellants, like the appeal to cabinet regarding the Wuskwatim Generation and Transmission appeal to cabinet.

View Manitoba Hydro NFAT Manitoba Hydro's Preferred Development Plan
View Public Registry File for Bipole III Transmission Project
View December 2, 2013 Manitoba Government letter
View December 2, 2013 Manitoba Government letter with attachments

Comments: Dorsey to Portage Transmission Line
Manitoba Wildlands provide comments to Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship (MCWS) on the proposed Manitoba Hydro Dorsey to Portage Transmission Line Project (Public Registry #5611.00) December 21, 2012.

The comments noted that the review period, access to supporting environmental assessment materials, and First Nations consultations were all inadequate. Manitoba Wildlands recommended that MCWS require Manitoab Hydro to make a supplemental filing that clearly outlines project scope, guidelines, and alternatives.

View December 21, 2012 Manitoba Wildlands Comments: Dorsey to Portage Transmission Line Project – Public Registry #5611.00 (PDF)

Bipole III Clean Environment
Commission Hearings

Manitoba BiPole III Review Flawed
transmission tower Manitoba Wildlands filed review comments about Manitoba Hydro's environmental statement for the contentious BiPole III transmission project. The proposed corridor and transmission system will be a 500 kv high-voltage direct current system to move power from northern dams to a converter station south east of Winnipeg.

Controversy has dogged the project since the Manitoba government instructed the publicly owned utility to build the 1400 kilometer transmission project on the west side of the province, keeping it out of the largely intact east side of Manitoba. Independent studies for valuation of the boreal forests regions on both sides of Manitoba are not forthcoming. The public continues to question whether the transmission line is being built for energy security and reliability, or to export energy to the United States by servicing future dams in northern Manitoba.

Now the project is dogged by problems, notably failure to start Aboriginal and First Nations consultations, lack of data from actual fieldwork along the intended corridor, and a need to solve deficiencies in the first filing. Forty Aboriginal communities are affected by the preferred corridor location.

Concerns about large mammals, especially woodland caribou, elk, and moose arise from the utility's first filing. Seven woodland caribou herds are located in the study area, with greater risks for four herds. Due to decline in population and years of public concern, Manitoba closed the moose hunt in 2011. Recently the government announced the moose population, in regions where the BiPole III will be built, has stabilized.

Manitoba Hydro was allowed to define the project area, study area, and local study area so it can pick information to use, including to self assess impacts. Access to first filing materials is inadequate, with many improvements needed in the supplemental filing.

downloadDownload March 16, 2012 Manitoba Wildlands BiPole III Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Comments (PDF)
downloadDownload March 2012 Manitoba Wildlands BiPole III EIS Comments Attachment list and materials (PDF)
downloadDownload March 31, 2010 Manitoba Wildlands BiPole III Scoping Document Comments (PDF)
downloadDownload March 31, 2010 Manitoba Wildlands BiPole III Scoping Documents Comments List of References and Materials (PDF)
View Manitoba Hydro BiPole III Transmission Project Environmental Impact Statement
View Manitoba Conservation Online Public Registry files - Manitoba Hydro BiPole III Transmission Project, file #5433/00
Source: Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Wildlands

BiPole III Environment Statement Review
Manitoba Hydro filed its Environment Impact Statement ( EIS) for BiPole III under the Manitoba Environment Act in December 2011. Manitoba Conservation reviewed the EIS, sent public notices, filed the EIS in public registries and then the 90 day review period started just before Christmas. It is expected the Technical Advisory Committee, and various government departments will file review comments about the EIS. Deficiencies in the EIS are identified through this review process, and as often happens with Class Three Developments in Manitoba, the utility will be asked to file supplemental information in response to the review comments.

Manitoba Wildlands filed review comments, though was not able to respond fully to the binders full of materials, and the over 150 maps.

downloadDownload March 16, 2012 Manitoba Wildlands comments (PDF)

Bipole III Comments Deadline Announced
transmission tower Comments on Manitoba Hydro's Bipole III Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are due by March 16, 2012. Following the public comments period, an updated EIS maybe filed. The Clean Environment Commission will then hold hearings during 2012.

The timing of the review period raised some concerns. "It is inappropriate for a review period to fall squarely in the holiday season when many government offices are closed. Many First Nation offices will be closed for three weeks over the holidays. The 90 day review period should be extended accordingly," said Manitoba Wildlands Director Gaile Whelan Enns.

The EIS documents are available in paper copy at Manitoba Public Registry locations, and online through Manitoba Hydro's website.

It remains unclear if a federal review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) will be required. The June 2011 final Scoping Document for Bipole III states: "It is anticipated that Manitoba Conservation will coordinate a cooperative environmental assessment process ... under The Environment Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act." (pg. 3)

Yet the December 2011 EIS for Bipole III now states: "In the case of Bipole III, Manitoba Hydro is of the opinion that an environmental assessment will not be required pursuant to federal legislation." (pg. 1-11)

Responsible federal authorities are presently reviewing the EIS.

View Manitoba Conservation, Bipole III Transmission Project: Online Public Registry file #5433
View Manitoba Conservation, Public Advertisement on the Bipole III Transmission Project (PDF)
View Manitoba Hydro Bipole III Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
View Manitoba Conservation, Scoping Document for Bipole III (PDF)
View December 7, 2011 Manitoba Wildlands news item
View Energy Manitoba, Bipole III page
Source: Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro

Where Is The Bipole III Environment Statement?
transmission lines Bipole III is a transmission system and corridor Manitoba Hydro will run from a new converter station near the proposed Conawapa Generation Station (dam) site east of Gillam in northern Manitoba to a new converter station east of Winnipeg in southern Manitoba.

The preferred route for Bipole III would be separate from Bipoles I & II, as both run parallel to each other in the same corridor. Bi Pole III aims to enhance energy security and reliability for Manitoba. The intended construction of new hydro-electric generating sites in Manitoba's north requires Manitoba Hydro build the Bi Pole III transmission corridor to move power to southern markets. The choice of where to route the transmission corridor has been controversial with the preferred west side corridor now assured.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Bi Pole III, required under Manitoba's environment act, and originally expected in summer 2011, was delayed and is now expected to be submitted for public review before the end of 2011.

It is unclear when the EIS will be submitted to Manitoba Conservation, by Manitoba Hydro, what the process and duration of public review will be, and whether this transmission project will involve public hearings, with public participant funding. To date the Minister of Conservation has not provided a 'reference' to the Clean Environment Commission to hold hearings. Hearings would follow all stages of EIS review.

Manitoba Hydro will need to make sure that access to the Bi Pole III EIS materials is at the same standard used during the EIS review for the Wuskwatim transmission project. The range of stakeholders and affected communities means it is essential that Bi Pole III materials are available on paper, on DVDs, and posted on government and Hydro websites.

View Manitoba Hydro, "Bipole III" page
View May 27, 2011 Winnipeg Free Press article
Source: Manitoba Wildlands, Manitoba Hydro
Manitoba Hydro Selects Preferred Route
Manitoba Hydro logoManitoba Hydro released details of its preferred route for the Bipole III high-voltage direct current transmission line on the west side of Manitoba July 29, 2010.

Costing more than $2 billion and spanning 1,364 kilometres, the proposed corridor will run down the west side of the province connecting the Keewatinoow Converter Station (northeast of the town of Gillam) to the Riel Converter Station (east of Winnipeg in the Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Springfield).

Originally Hydro looked at BiPole III options along the east side of Lake Winnipeg, but the government directed Manitoba Hydro to use the west side leaving Manitoba's east side Boreal Forest in tact.

"We believe that we have selected the route with the least impact on the environment and on the communities and residents along the proposed path of the transmission line," said Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Bob Brennan, "It takes out ... 37 acres of agricultural land. In that whole route, we thought that was excellent - 37 acres is not very much in building a line this size."

Manitoba Hydro will begin a series of meetings with municipalities and aboriginal communites and stakeholders in 2010. Hydro is promising to provide fair and equitable compensation packages for landowners affected by the preferred right-of-way, Information centres will provide an opportunity for landowners to discuss the project with Hydro staff and obtain more details.

Politically, the transmission line is a hot topic. The Opposition Tories state the longer route would add over $600 million to BiPole III's costs, while the Liberals argue running Bi-Pole III under Lake Winnipeg would simultaneously reduce costs by $300 million and minimize environmental impact.

Manitoba Wildlands submitted comments on the proposed Bi-Polle III Scoping Document March 2010 which questioned: the standards being used, why the line was only rated for 500 Kilo-volts (Kv) when lines built elsewhere had capacities as high as 1200 Kv, and why a route under Lake Winnipeg had not been given more consideration. A July 2009 poll conducted by Manitoba Wildlands determined 76% of respondents favoured running portions of Bi-Pole III under Lake Winnipeg.

Construction is expected to start in 2012 with an in-service date for the project of 2017.

downloadDownload Map of the Preliminary Preferred Route (PDF)
View Manitoba Hydro Bi-Pole III page
View July 29, 2010 Manitoba Hydro press release
View July 29, 2010 CBC News article
View August 2, 2010 Winnipeg Sun article
View Manitoba Wildlands Bi-Pole III poll results
View Energy Manitoba Bi-Pole III page
Source: Manitoba Hydro, CBC News

BiPole III Scoping Document Review
Manitoba Conservation posted the scoping document to inform the environmental impact study for BiPole III DC transmission system. Manitoba Wildlands undertook a study of the scoping document contents, and filed its comments end of March 2010. Comments point to the lack of any environmental assessment regulation in Manitoba law, and the range of transmission system standards and criteria which the utility should apply to the project and its transmission operations.

Clean Environment Commission chair Terry Sargent provided analysis and comments during the review of the Bi Pole III scoping document. Manitoba Wildlands is posting his recommendations. Sets of comments and recommendations about the scoping document to inform the Bi Pole III EIS are in the Manitoba Conservation public registry file for Manitoba Hydro's Bi Pole III project,. Mr. Sargent's recommendations, to date, are not included in that public registry file.

downloadDownload April 14, 2010 Letter from Terry Sargeant, Chair, Clean Environment Commission (PDF)

The Manitoba Wildlands review comments aim to help raise the standard for planning, designing, constructing and operating new transmission systems in Manitoba. It has been over 40 years since a DC transmission line was built in Manitoba, and over ten years since the newest AC lines were designed.

downloadDownload Manitoba Wildlands March 2010 BiPole III scoping document review comments MWL owl (PDF)
downloadDownload Manitoba Wildlands BiPole III scoping document review comments - List of Resources MWL owl (PDF)
For copies of attachments, send request to Manitoba Wildlands

For a status report on bi pole III route selection, and the start of Manitoba's section 35 consultations with First Nations go to Conservation Manitoba

BiPole III Location - Under Lake Winnipeg
Dr. John Ryan, retired professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg undertook the research and analysis for his three articles, published by the Winnipeg Free Press. Since their publication Manitoba Hydro has announced that it will study the option of putting sections of BiPole III under Lake Winnipeg. These articles include data and costing for similar projects in Europe. Manitoba Wildlands is making the articles available with permission of Dr. Ryan.

downloadDownload February 9-11, 2008 Three Part Article: Proposal for a Manitoba Hydro Cable under Lake Winnipeg (DOC)
downloadDownload February 12, 2008 Editorial & Rejoinder - Study line under lake (DOC)
downloadDownload February 13 & 18, 2008 Letters to the Editor: John Ryan's Transmission Line Series (DOC)
downloadDownload February 20, 2008 Underwater power line to be studied, by Mary Agnes Welch (DOC)
downloadDownload February 19 & March 6, 2008 Letters to the Editor: Cable fears unwarranted (DOC)
downloadDownload March 6, 2008 View From the West: East route reality checks (DOC)

BiPole III Transmission Routing Study
transmission line On December 19, 2007 Manitoba Hydro tabled a report during a Legislative Committee meeting at the Manitoba Legislature. The report is dated September 2007 and reviews the options, variables and public policy issues in relation to placement of Bi Pole III Direct Current transmission corridor in Manitoba.

We would note that an earlier Manitoba Hydro report regarding East Side issues acknowledges that Bi Pole IV could also be needed as an East Side transmission corridor. (The Manitoba Hydro 2002 report.)

Manitoba Wildlands is posting the September 2007 Report.

downloadDownload September 2007 BiPole III Transmission Routing Study (PDF)
downloadDownload December 2002 Manitoba Hydro report, Future Transmission Line Development on the East Side (PDF 4MB)

At the December 19, 2007 meeting of the Manitoba Legislature Committee on Crown Corporations, extensive discussions occurred regarding the location of Manitoba's next north to south direct current bi pole transmission system. Manitoba Wildlands have summarized content from the record especially in regards to the future world heritage site, and protecting the boreal forest regions on Manitoba's east side.

downloadDownload Manitoba Legislative Committee - BiPole III summary (PDF)


Manitoba Hydro's September 25, 2007 announcement that it will route the BiPole III transmission line down the west side of Lake Winnipeg, rather than through Manitoba's intact boreal forest on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg (see below) has recently received extensive coverage in the media. It has also sparked heated debate in the Provincial Legislature. Manitoba Wildlands has summarized some of the misinformation that has been circulating and is providing additional information to clarify certain issues surrounding transmission line development impacts and other potential development on the east side.

downloadDownload Manitoba Wildlands November 2007 Setting the Record Straight - Manitoba Transmission Corridors / Road System for East Side MWL owl (PDF)

Hydro to Route BiPole III Through West Side
Manitoba Hydro announced September 25, 2007 it will move forward with its plans to build a new high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission corridor on the west side of the Province.

View September 25, 2007 Manitoba Hydro press release

Manitoba Hydro President and CEO Bob Brennan said BiPole III, will serve as backup for existing lines, which are vulnerable to storms and extreme weather, "as well as being able to carry power from new generation, including Conawapa, to the south and to export markets."

The transmission project will need to receive approvals from the appropriate federal and provincial agencies. Targeted in-service date is 2017. No information has been provided about how the transmission segments being built on the west side for Wuskwatim will be incorporated in the BiPole grid.

Manitoba Government Says 'No' to BiPole III on the East Side
In May 2005 the Manitoba government publicly stated it will not allow hydro transmission lines through the boreal forest regions east of Lake Winnipeg.

downlaodDownload May 29, 2005 Winnipeg Free Press article (DOC)

Manitoba Energy Minister Dave Chomiak told media that preserving the ecological integrity of boreal forests on the east side - to assist in pursuit of World Heritage Site status for the area - is the government's priority.

View June 1, 2005 Canadian Boreal Initiative press release
View Manitoba Wildlands World Heritage Site page with mapsMWL owl

ESPI Report Calls for Suspension of BiPole III Until Planning Completed
In 2003, Manitoba Hydro was asked by the Minister responsible for Hydro to halt its public planning process for BiPole III until the conclusion of the East Side Planning Initiative (ESPI). Phase II of the ESPI concluded in November 2004 with the submission of a status report on the ESPI. In January 2005, the Minister of Conservation announced he had forwarded the recommendations in the status report relating to BiPole III to Manitoba Hydro and "the utility is currently reviewing alternate routing options."

View Manitoba Wildlands' East Side Planning Initiative pages, for information on the ESPI
View Manitoba Wildlands' Hydro Research and Maps page, for information on future transmission options

Hydro Steps Up Plans for BiPole III on Manitoba's East Side
Manitoba Hydro recently stepped up planning efforts to develop a HVDC Transmission Line/Corridor, through the ecologically pristine east side of Lake Winnipeg. The corridor would also traverse the traditional territories of as many as 18 First Nations. Part of the canceled 1990-1992 Conawapa development plan, BiPole III has since been described by Manitoba Hydro as a transmission project that is not driven by new generation capacity. Instead, Hydro says that the line is needed to improve the overall reliability of Manitoba's hydro system, as it would reduce vulnerability to extreme weather and other potential causes of interruption.

At least three different corridor options have been mapped and investigated for this BiPole over the last 20 years. The corridor options are evident in different map sets. The BiPole III corridor is not the only potential transmission corridor for the east side as Manitoba Hydro policy explicitly states that each new dam at the top of the east side would also have its own corridor.

View the Manitoba Wildlands Hydro Map Gallery MWL owl

In 2002, Manitoba Hydro conducted a series of 'introductory meetings' with the leadership of First Nations and Northern Affairs communities with the intent to "introduce Manitoba Hydro's plans for future transmission development on the East Side, including BiPole III, and begin the process of building relationships with communities in regard to such development." The meetings took place between May and October 2002 as a first step in a multi-year process to involve East Side communities in the planning and environmental assessment of future transmission lines in the region.

This Manitoba Hydro document indicates there would be few direct benefits for the communities from construction of transmission lines on the east side.

downloadDownload December 2002 Manitoba Hydro document, Future Transmission Line Development on the East Side: Summary of Key Perspectives from Introductory Meetings with Leadership of East Side Communities (PDF 4MB)

East-West Power Grid & Hydro MOU

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