It has been reported that the Bipole 3 project, the new Manitoba Hydro line the government plans to construct along the West side of Lake Winnipeg will cost over $4.1 billion, nearly twice as much as the projected $2.2 billion that Manitoba Hydro and the provincial NDP had told the public. When pressed for answers, Hydro president and CEO Bob Brennan was more concerned about why someone in his company would leak out this document, than to justify the enormous cost of running Bipole 3 on the West side of Lake Winnipeg.
One of the first blogs to question Hydro's decision nearly a year ago, is the much respected author of "Anyone Want a Peanut". If you click on the link, he has an excellent write up on why running the Hydro line on the West Side is a horrible idea, and reeks of political maneuvering, rather than common sense. Apparently, the west route is technically inferior to the east route, including the need for additional (expensive) converters, lower line capacity, and greater line losses.
Here is a projected map of Bipole 3:
What's interesting to note is reliable sources have told me that if the line was built on the East side of Lake Winnipeg, it would only have a width of 66 metres, run parallel (for the most part), to an existing gravel road, and would arguably have less of an environmental impact than if it were to be built on the West Side of the lakes. Finally, let's not forget about the open letter that 19 mainly retired senior professional engineers composed for the Winnipeg Free Press back in December 2010.
Here are some of the main points the engineers brought up in regards to Bipole 3 in the article:
- Of the 10 criteria for designation of the East side of lake Winnipeg as a World Heritage site, nothing precludes carefully positioned roads and transmission lines (many World Heritage sites in Canada, for example in Banff and Jasper, are crossed by transmission lines and main highways)
- Land owners who will be critically affected by the western route have raised objections to the government's directive the western route must be followed
- The directive was apparently made with little or no public input and no reasoned comparison of costs and benefits
- Environmental studies show a common corridor that includes the road and the Bipole III, is favourable for wildlife. It will also allow access for periodic inspection and maintenance of the line.
- A 66-metre-wide right-of-way will occupy less than 0.03 per cent (three ten-thousandths) of the projected heritage area
- With a length of 1,365 kilometres, the West side route is 480 kilometres longer than the East side route, and this is the primary reason for the increase in costs
- Selection of an east-side route would save a Manitoba family of five around $4,200 compared with the west side
- The longer line will cause electricity worth about $300 million to be lost in transit, the equivalent of all wind energy generated annually in Manitoba, and equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 40,000 cars.
- The two routes traverse the same length of boreal forest (about 400 kilometres). In addition, however, the western route also traverses several hundred kilometres of the best agricultural soils in the most favourable agro-climatic zone in the province
- There are 16 First Nations communities that would be affected by the eastern route and 15 by the western route, essentially the same number (neither route will traverse any aboriginal reserve land)
- There are technical issues that show a route on the east side of the province provides much higher reliability and protection against risk from wind and ice storms
- If Bipoles I and II are damaged, the eastern route for Bipole III is twice as effective as the western route for supplying southern Manitoba and the contracted power to the United States
The engineers go on to say that the current NDP government decided Bipole III must run west of the Manitoba lakes and directed the technical staff of Manitoba Hydro to make it happen. One wonders if the provincial NDP government thinks money grows on trees.