A Thread Down a Football Field

An analysis of why the west side transmission line in Manitoba is sub-optimal environmental and energy policy.


Manitoba Hydro is Manitoba’s largest Crown corporation and is responsible for providing low cost electricity to Manitobans. It is also a major exporter of hydroelectric power to the United States. Since the turn of the 20th century, Manitoba Hydro has been developing hydroelectric resources by building power generation facilities on a number of major rivers. Producing electricity requires a means to transport it, and Manitoba Hydro is responsible for the construction and operation of transmission facilities such as power lines and converter stations.

To keep up with demand, Manitoba Hydro must constantly increase both generation and transmission capacity. There are two major lines coming down from Northern Manitoba, BiPoles I and II. BiPole III is in the planning stage, and the original intention was to run that line down the east side of Lake Winnipeg (ESLW). Due to pressure from a select group of environmentalists, this plan was shelved in favour of a line down the west side of Lake Winnipegosis (WSLW) near the Saskatchewan border.

The WSLW line is much longer, and the extra distance will result in a line loss of at least 28 megawatts (MW) per year, which is enough to power 25,000 homes, about equivalent to all the residences in Brandon. The export value of this line loss is in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the expected 50-year life of the transmission line.

The environmental impact of BiPole III on the ESLW would have been minimal and easily mitigated. The land under the power line would have provided excellent wildlife habitat and would have introduced plant diversity into an area with little. Certain species of wildlife would have thrived in this new habitat.

It is evident that such poor quality decisions are only possible because the government of Manitoba is the recipient of generous equalization payments from have provinces that are net contributors to the Equalization Program.

Read the complete paper in PDF format

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