Bipole III becomes high-voltage issue

The controversial Bipole III high-voltage transmission line is also a high-voltage political issue that has simmered since the proposed route for the west side of Manitoba was released in 2010.
The two potential routes for the Bipole III transmission line are mapped out. The western route, favoured by the NDP, will run 1,400 kilometres and cost more than $3 billion to build. (CBC)

The controversial Bipole III high-voltage transmission line is also a high-voltage political issue that has simmered since the proposed route for the west side of Manitoba was released in 2010.

The line will run 1,400 kilometres and will cost more than $3 billion to build.

Opponents are critical of the government, saying it will cost at least $1 billion more than an east side route, which is 50 per cent shorter.

The NDP government in 2007 overruled Manitoba Hydro's original plan to run the line down the east side of Lake Winnipeg. A major factor was the protection of a proposed UNESCO World Heritage site in that area.

The site, which the province is still seeking to have declared, contains 40,000 square kilometres of vast boreal forest, rivers, lakes and wetlands spread across the Canadian shield and straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border.

Western Route:

Estimated cost:

  • $3.28 billion, according to Manitoba Hydro in April 2011. ($1 billion more than initial estimates).
  • $ 4.1 billion, according to a document leaked in the summer of 2010, to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.


NDP: According to the NDP, the western route is the environmental choice. The eastern route would threaten a future bid for a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the boreal forest, east of Lake Winnipeg.

Manitoba Hydro: According to the president and CEO Bob Brennan, cancelling the plans for the western route could mean a major delay in the construction of the Keeyask dam, which is slated to be operational as soon as 2019.

Poplar River First Nation: Located just east of Lake Winnipeg, Poplar River First Nation is aiming to preserve its boreal forest. In July of 2011, the province announced 8,000 square kilometers of that land as designated as protected territory.

Pew Environment Group: The American environmentalists sided with the NDP in a report published in March 2011, which concluded the eastern route would harm the boreal forest. The Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) agrees.

Eastern Route:

Estimated cost:

  • $788 million, according to the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba.


Progressive Conservative Party: According to party leader Hugh McFadyen, the eastern route puts Manitoban families first. The higher cost of the western route would mean higher hydro bills. According to PC calculations, the additional total cost would be $11,748 per Manitoban family.

Bipole III Coalition: Members of the coalition include retired engineers, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and retired Manitoba Hydro employees. In addition to their criticism of the cost of the western route, the Bipole III Coalition points out that the western route would be twice as long as the eastern route, which would cause higher energy losses during transmission.

Chief George Kemp, Berens River First Nation: Berens River First Nation’s land is on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. If Manitoba Hydro were to share its revenue with the First Nations affected by the transmission line, Berens River would benefit. Chief George Kemp has said that he supports the eastern route because the lower cost would benefit all Manitoban taxpayers.

Farmers in southwest MB: Between 550 and 600 agricultural landowners would be affected by the transmission line, if it runs along the western route. Some farmers are worried that the provinces compensation will be insufficient.