In the early 2000’s, Manitoba Hydro initiated plans to build a third direct-current (DC) transmission line from the Nelson River to Winnipeg on a relatively short route, located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. This line would act as backup to two existing DC bipole lines and, being the third line from the Nelson River, it was called Bipole III.
In 2007, then-premier Gary Doer nixed the plan, on the grounds that a transmission line would jeopardize prospects for the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Manitoba Hydro was left with what it considered to be the only remaining practical option--a line on the west side of the province near the Saskatchewan border. The revised route would be 54 % longer, hence costlier, also technically less effective and less secure, as it would cross a tornado–prone area. Furthermore, it would traverse and negatively impact a substantial portion of the prime farmland in the Red River Valley.
In October 2010, media outlets had reported that the routing of Bipole III would be examined at a Public Accountability meeting on Crown Corporations to be held that month. Approximately 150 irate farmers from southern Manitoba descended on the Legislature meeting room to show their displeasure with a route that would adversely affect their farming operation. Retired engineers from a breadth of backgrounds and career experience also attended that same meeting to voice their concerns over how the new route would impact the economic and technical aspects of Manitoba Hydro’s operations and, ultimately, electricity rates. It was a very acrimonious meeting at which these citizens, legitimately present at the meeting, were prevented from expressing their concerns.
Following that meeting, a small group of farmers and engineers met informally to discuss the prospects of collaborating to see whether anything could be done about what appeared to be a looming struggle. This meeting was a seminal moment in the creation of the Bipole III Coalition. A website was registered and a Board of Directors was elected, made up of volunteers, mostly retired engineers, such as university professors, consulting engineers, and retired Manitoba Hydro executives. The Coalition’s Board appointed Karen Friesen, a landowner, as President.
One of the first actions of the new Coalition was to develop the following Mission Statement:
“The Bipole III Coalition is a grass-roots organization of concerned citizens that aims to educate and promote increased public awareness that a route on the east side of Lake Winnipeg is superior to a route on the west side of the province for the Bipole III transmission line proposed by Manitoba Hydro. The east-side route is preferable because of greater economic, social, technical, and environmental benefits for all Manitobans. The Coalition is not affiliated with any political party.”
In order to promote public awareness, articles and letters to the editor were submitted for publication in newspapers, invitations to appear on radio and TV were accepted and presentations were made at group gatherings. The Coalition used its website to preserve its communications for the future. The website was also used to post articles and letters written by the public, so long as these items dealt to some degree with Bipole III. Today, this website serves as a depository of these articles, letters and presentations, and also some videos, on an historical and ongoing basis.
In December 2011, the Manitoba Government requested the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC) to hold a hearing on the impact that the west-side Bipole III would have on the environment. The Coalition was granted Intervenor status, meaning that our lawyer could cross-examine witnesses. By edict of the Manitoba Government and preposterously, no discussion was permitted of the east-side option. This limitation notwithstanding, individuals, many from the membership of the Coalition, joined the Coalition in its formal role as an Intervenor, taking advantage of the opportunity to make presentations at the hearing. Some relevant material submitted by the public and by members of the Coalition has been posted in the website.
Just before a license was granted by the CEC for a west–side Bipole III in June 2013, the Manitoba Government followed up in November 2012 with another request, this one to the Manitoba Public Utilities Board (PUB), requiring it to hold a Need for and Alternatives to (NFAT) hearing. With the NFAT hearing expected in the near future, the Coalition’s Board had decided in late 2012 to expand the Coalition’s Mission Statement to the following, so that it would be compatible with Coalition’s expanding scope of activities and interest:
“The Bipole III Coalition is a grass-roots organization of concerned citizens that aims to promote increased public awareness among Manitobans that a route for the Bipole III transmission line on the east side of Lake Winnipeg is superior to the one on the west side of the province. The east-side route is superior because of greater economic, social and technical benefits for all Manitobans and reduced global environmental impact. More broadly, the Coalition aims to promote awareness of how the chosen route for Bipole III will impact on, or will be impacted by, Manitoba Hydro's legislated obligation to engage in and promote economy and efficiency in the development, generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and end use of power. The Coalition is not affiliated with any political party”.
Information posted on this website, since late 2012, reflects this expanded Mission Statement.
The NFAT hearing, which did not actually begin until March 2014, was billed as a review of the capital plan for Manitoba Hydro’s major projects. In a second preposterous action by the Manitoba Government in as many years, Bipole III was singled out to escape any part of that review on the strength of the implausible argument that the need for reliability was beyond question. Unfortunately, conventional detailed studies of the risks associated with reliability and a full and proper cost/benefit analysis of options available for dealing with reliability were never tabled. Hence, the case for Bipole III as a justifiable reliability investment has never been made.
It was blatantly obvious to the Coalition’s Board that there was no way to hold a proper review of Manitoba Hydro’s capital plan without considering the relevance and the contribution of Bipole III. After all, any new power from the Nelson River would have to be transmitted over a system that includes the new Bipole III line and the expanded system could cost several billions of dollars. The Coalition had been disappointed by the earlier failure of the CEC to give serious consideration to positions advanced by it and by others in the environmental licensing of Bipole III. But it was even more discouraged by the unjustifiable constraints put on the NFAT review of Hydro’s capital plan. Accordingly, the Coalition limited its involvement in the NFAT hearing to the submission of a written presentation in February 2014.
The Coalition continues to post, in its website, communication items published by its own members and by others, provided these items fall within its Mission Statement. The Coalition’s Board is still representative of essentially the same set of stakeholders as when it was originally established in 2010 but now it has been expanded to include representatives with backgrounds in regulation and research.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS (HISTORICAL WITH DATES OF SERVICE)
Karen Friesen (2010 – present), Director and President
B. Sc. Agr., Landowner
Ph: (204) 326-8635
Garland Laliberte (2010 – present), Director and Vice-President
PhD, P. Eng., Dean Emeritus Engineering, University of Manitoba, Past-President, Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba, Past-President, Canadian Council of Professional Engineers
Jim Graham (2010 – present) Director and Secretary
PhD, DSc, P. Eng., Professor Emeritus Engineering, University of Manitoba
Bob Foster (2010 – 2013) Former Director and Treasurer
MCP, P. Eng., Past-President, Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba, Engineering consultant on international infrastructure projects
Ken Adam (2010 – present) Director
PhD, P. Eng., Engineering consultant on international environmental and cold region infrastructure projects
Len Bateman (2010 – present) Director
MSc, O. M., O. C., P. Eng., CEO, Manitoba Hydro (retired), Past-President, Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba
Colin Craig (2010 – 2012, 2014 - 2015) Former Director
MBA, Prairie Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation (former)
Art Derry (2010 – present) Director
MSc, Vice-President, Manitoba Hydro (retired)
Dave Ennis (2010 – present) Director
MSc, P. Eng., Executive Director, Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba (retired)
Graham Lane (2014 – present) Director
CPA, Chair, Manitoba Public Utilities Board (retired)
Glenn Morris (2010 -- 2011) Former Director now deceased
PhD, P. Eng., Associate Dean of Engineering, University of Manitoba (retired), Past-President, Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba
Al Myska (2010 – present) Director
BSc, P. Eng., Engineering consultant on northern projects
Will Tishinski (2010 – present) Director
MSc, P. Eng., Vice-President, Manitoba Hydro (retired)
Dennis Woodford (2014 – present) Director
MSc, P. Eng., Engineering consultant and global research leader on transmission and generation projects, President of Electranix Corporation