Manitoba Hydro will spend millions more to builda new transmission line in western Manitoba instead of on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, officials announced Tuesday.

The Crown utility says the high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line— called BiPole III— willbegin at Gillam, in northern Manitoba,run west of Winnipegosis and Lake Manitoba and end at a new converter station east of Winnipeg.

Manitoba Hydro had originally planned to run the line east of Lake Winnipeg, but the plan was overruled by the provincial government in 2005 due to environmental concerns raised by aboriginal people living in the area.

The western route is 50 per cent longer and will cost an extra $350 million to $400 million to build, butthe eastern routewould have cut a swath through pristine boreal forest.

"It would seem from a technical and economic viewpoint —if you look at that alone —the best would be the east," Manitoba Hydro CEO Bob Brennanadmittedon CBC Radio Tuesday afternoon.

"If you can't get a licence to do it, though, it's not the best. That's pretty clear."

More than 75 per cent on Manitoba Hydro's electricity production is currently supplied through twoexisting lines that run from Gillam through the Interlake to Winnipeg, Hydro officials said.

The new line would act as a back-up to the current system and be able to carry power from new generating stations, including Conawapa, to southern Manitoba and the province's export markets.

"The line is really, really important to us, and we have to get on with something," Brennan said. "The longer we sit around trying to decide which is best, it's just putting our system at risk. So I'm glad a decision has been made."

The precise route for the $2-billion line will be determined after an environmental, design and public consultation process that is expected to take several years.

Manitoba Hydro hopes the line will be complete in 2017.

With files from the Canadian Press