Manitoba Hydro recognizes its stewardship role and its responsibility for considering the needs of multiple stakeholders. All of Manitoba Hydro's development projects are subject to rigorous environmental scrutiny and regulatory oversight similar to that in the U.S.
Our approach to development results in projects with reduced environmental and social impacts and greater local benefits.
Before construction begins, environmental and socio-economic studies are required to assess project impacts: Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge has been incorporated into our project planning, monitoring and environmental assessment to complement Western scientific approaches.
Manitoba Hydro also works closely with affected local communities, including Aboriginal communities, to ensure that these projects provide net benefit. In some cases communities are offered equity investment opportunities in projects.
This comprehensive approach to development has resulted in hydropower generation stations that are among the most sustainable renewable energy projects anywhere.
Keeyask Generating Station
Construction is in full swing on the 695-megawatt Keeyask Generating Station on the Nelson River in northern Manitoba, with the first unit in service by 2019 and completed in 2021. Development of the Keeyask Project is a collaborative effort between Manitoba Hydro and four Manitoba First Nations:Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation, and Fox Lake Cree Nation. Working together, the Partners are known collectively as the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP).
During the planning and design process for Keeyask, Manitoba Hydro and the Keeyask Cree Nations jointly identified and addressed concerns to avoid, reduce and mitigate project environmental effects.
The project involves the lowest reservoir-level option among the feasible options, resulting in the least amount of flooding and operating with a small, one-metre range of reservoir levels.
Special precautions have been taken to minimize adverse impacts on fish populations and even create positive effects, particularly for lake sturgeon, and other sensitive aquatic and terrestrial species and habitats.
Aboriginal traditional knowledge was used extensively during project planning and monitoring. For example, the Keeyask Cree Nations submitted their own project environmental evaluations.
Project effects and mitigation measures will be carefully monitored and adaptive-management plans are in place to address future issues that might arise.
Building Keeyask also supports local communities. Play video: Building Keeyask Builds Opportunity—Adam's Story (1:23).
Protecting the environment
At Manitoba Hydro, we are proactive in protecting the environment. In full recognition that the economy and the environment are mutually dependent we integrate environmentally responsible practices in all aspects of our business.
This awareness extends to our large capital projects, where consideration of the environment is built into project planning processes, resulting in reduced biophysical impacts compared to earlier approaches:
- Reduced aquatic impacts
For example, all new projects incorporate fish protection and impact mitigation. New facility designs include fish-friendly turbines, ensuring minimal impact to fish stocks. To compensate for any affected habitats, project development must, according to federal regulation, replace habitats or take other measures to maintain the sustainability of fish populations.
- Reduced flooding
New hydropower facilities have been designed to reduce flooding. Our most recently completed generating station, Wuskwatim, created less than one-fifth of a square mile of flooding, all contained within the immediate forebay area.
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
Our new Keeyask Generating Station will result in fewer GHG emissions over a century of operation than an equivalent natural-gas fired station would release in half a year or a coal-fired facility in less than 100 days.
Wherever possible, adverse effects of projects are avoided, and any remaining effects either mitigated through remedial works, offset by replacement or substitutions, or compensated for as necessary.
The partnership agreements we have negotiated with our First Nation partners on recent generation projects – Wuskwatim and Keeyask – are legally binding documents that provide Aboriginal communities with opportunities such as:
- Income opportunities
Communities are given the option of becoming an equity partner to share in the income earned by our new generating stations.
- Pre-project training opportunities
A number of governmental agencies as well as Manitoba Hydro jointly contribute funds for job training of community members and other northern Aboriginals prior to the start of projects.
- Business opportunities
By means of directly negotiated contracts, our Aboriginal partners can build capacity in different business areas and take advantage of the economic potential created by our projects.
- Employment opportunities
Besides hiring northern Aboriginals for project construction and operations, other features include employment preferences, community input, proactive tendering and employee retention programming.
- Joint management of environmental processes
This has included extensive Aboriginal involvement in environmental field studies, environmental impact statements and environmental hearings.
- Adverse effects agreements
Regardless of the partnership arrangement, our approach includes the prior negotiation of Adverse Effect Agreements with each Aboriginal community affected by our projects.
At the same time, recognizing the impacts of earlier projects, we have allocated to date over $1 billion to mitigate and compensate for all project-related impacts.
Comments from our First Nations partners
Construction begins on Keeyask Generating Station: "A brighter future for generations."
The following are comments from our First Nations partners on the day of the announcement of start of Keeyask construction (in-service date of 2019).
"With today's announcement, we have reached a significant milestone in our Nation's history. Since we first proposed a partnership model for future hydroelectric development in Manitoba over 15 years ago, our Nation has overcome enormous obstacles, and we will now finally begin to realize the hard won benefits set out in our development agreements, including a brighter future for generations to come."
-Michael Garson, Chief of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation
"After over a decade of negotiation and consultation, in which our Members actively and meaningfully participated in developing Keeyask, War Lake's vision is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Keeyask Project includes significant training and employment opportunities, enabling our businesses and Members to not only earn valuable experience on Keeyask, but to join the mainstream economy of Manitoba and empower them to secure ongoing employment after Keeyask is constructed."
-Betsy Kennedy, Chief of War Lake First Nation
"We look forward to our continuing work within the KHLP as an active partner in all levels of the project. Fox Lake Cree Nation will be vigilant, particularly within areas of governance and monitoring, to ensure our position within the partnership remains viable. Fox Lake will ensure that our many investments in Keeyask pay dividends for future generations of Fox Lake members."
-Walter Spence, Chief of Fox Lake Cree Nation
"The project is now becoming a reality for our community. We are committed to fulfilling our First Nation-led contracts, to reaching employment targets, and to meeting our commitments as environmental stewards in the years to come."
-Ted Bland, Chief of York Factory First Nation