I have to get something off my chest. Even though I have commented on this issue elsewhere, I feel a need to rant about it here on my own humble blog.
That something is the government interference in the operations of Manitoba Hydro. You could dedicate an entire blog to that, but my focus today is on the decision to run the new DC Hydro lines down the west side of Lake Winnipeg, rather than the more obvious east-side choice.
A winnipegFIRST article has a few useful quotes:
The management of Manitoba Hydro believes that the east side is a better, more efficient route.-- Bob Brennan, president and CEO of MB Hydro, confirming that government interference (my words) is the reason for the decision.
There’s already roads and infrastructure on the west side, so it’s more fitting than going through an untouched boreal forest on the east side that has the chance of being an UNESCO site-- Colin Lemoine, press secretary for the provincial government, providing the flawed line of logic behind the decision.
Let's examine this:
First, is the government really concerned about the "untouched boreal forest" in that particular corner of the province? What about the San Gold and Rice Lake Gold mines east of the lake? What about the logging along the eastern edge of the province? What about the native communities, like Bloodvein First Nations? Does keeping the area "untouched" mean that we can never build roads to their communities?
Second, what the hell is this deal with the UNESCO heritage site anyhow? I grew up in the Boreal Forest in western Manitoba, and I could not explain to you how or why this area should be a UNESCO world heritage site. I even looked at their criteria. What is the "outstanding universal value" that can be found in this particular area, and not, say North Western Ontario? Sure, it's a beautiful area of the province, but it's not unique and endangered in the way that the Great Barrier Reef is.
Third, let's suppose we get our heritage status. Then what? What does that do for us? There will be some administrative costs associated with it, and very little economic benefit. That area will get the same hunters and fishers visiting that you see now. In fact, if we want the area to remain "untouched" (which it is not) then tourism would have to be limited or stopped completely. Maybe they're not interested in economic return ... maybe they're trying to protect the endangered white tailed deer.
Fourth, if government is at all concerned about the environment, then it should be concerned about the additional electricity transmission losses that will occur from using the western route -- 500 kms longer, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of lost electricity by some estimates. That is a lot of power that could be put to better use displacing dirty coal-fired power in other jurisdictions.
Fifth, we are waisting an opportunity to build summer roads to communities that are cut-off from the rest of us most of the year. All the more important with increasing unreliability of winter roads. Potential job creation for individuals in remote native communities has also been successfully avoided.
Sixth, we are losing an opportunity to build redundancy into our power supply from the north. With both DC corridors on the west side, we are much more vulnerable to natural (and unnatural) disasters.
Finally ... what about our valuable tax dollars????? $500m more to build, and who knows how much more in lost revenues from lost power (see point #4).
Now go back and read the quote from the provincial Press Secretary, and you can see just how lame their logic is.