Dam nears final hurdle
Feds kick in $300,000 for technical study of Hydro mega-project
By Dan Lett and Paul Samyn
Winnipeg Free Press
The proposed $5-billion Conawapa generating station is
poised to clear its final major hurdle.
The federal government has joined Manitoba and Ontario
to fund a detailed technical study of the proposed hydro
The study could lead to a lucrative agreement to sell
Manitoba energy to Ontario.
Premier Gary Doer said yesterday an agreement on the detailed
study was close at hand and is expected to be revealed
at a news conference tomorrow. Doer left a media scrum
on the resumption of the legislature to attend a briefing
with Manitoba Hydro CEO Bob Brennan and senior members
of Manitoba's federal-provincial relations secretariat,
where the tri-level deal was discussed.
Federal sources confirmed Ottawa will contribute $300,000
to the $1-million study, with the two provinces making
up the remainder.
The federal government's participation in the study is
a major victory for Manitoba and Ontario, both of which
have asked Ottawa to fund construction of a $1-billion
transmission line to take Manitoba electricity to Ontario's
industrial heartland. The federal Liberal government has
not committed to any of the transmission line costs, but
its involvement in the study is the clearest signal to
date that there is formal interest in the project.
A Natural Resources Canada official said the federal government's
involvement is part of Ottawa's commitment under the Kyoto
Accord to work with the provinces to reduce greenhouse
"We are committed to work with the provinces and
territories to contribute to electricity transmission
and to explore also economically competitive sources of
electricity," the official said.
Said another federal official: "The study is to look
at the case for the transmission of hydro from Manitoba
The federal involvement in the Manitoba-Ontario hydro
deal comes as a Senate committee yesterday released a
report warning of the dangers of climate change and the
importance of investing in renewable sources of energy
The NDP government has been looking for a way to jump-start
the mothballed Conawapa project since it was returned
to office in 1999. Doer made hydro generating construction
a major theme of his recent re-election campaign. The
NDP energy policy got a major boost in late April when
the Ontario government pledged in a Speech from the Throne
to pursue a power sale with Manitoba.
Manitoba Energy Minister Tim Sale said in early May the
two provinces had completed a preliminary feasibility
study, which attempted to roughly update the cost of the
project based on the design and cost estimates produced
in the early 1990s when Conawapa was first proposed. The
preliminary study adjusted the original project costs
for inflation, but did not provide an accurate and up-to-date
picture of what it would cost today to build Conawapa.
The detailed study would more accurately update the costs
of the dam while also providing estimates for various
transmission line options.
A completed power sale would mark a stunning comeback
for the massive Conawapa project.
In the early 1990s, Conawapa looked like a sure thing
after Ontario agreed to purchase 1,000 megawatts of electricity
However, the deal fell through when Ontario pulled out.
Ontario eventually paid a cash penalty to Manitoba for
its decision not to proceed.
The Tory government of the day decided against proceeding
with the project without a confirmed power sale.