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: Indigenous Traditional Knowledge has been incorporated into our project planning, monitoring and environmental assessment to complement scientific approaches.
Manitoba Hydro also works closely with affected local communities, including Indigenous 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 at Keeyask is continuing. In spite of the pandemic, but taking measures to ensure the safety and health of the site and the surrounding communities, 2 units are already online — outputting up to 100 megawatts (of the station’s eventual 695 megawatts) to the grid. Work progresses on the remaining units, with all 7 of them expected to be online sometime in 2022.
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.
Indigenous 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.
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
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 such as Wuskwatim and Keeyask and recent transmission line projects such as the Manitoba–Minnesota Transmission Project and the Birtle Transmission Line — are legally binding documents that provide Indigenous 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 and Manitoba Hydro jointly contribute funds for job training of community members and other northern Indigenous peoples prior to the start of projects.
- Business opportunities
By means of directly negotiated contracts, our Indigenous partners can build capacity in different business areas and take advantage of the economic potential created by our projects.
- Employment opportunities
Besides hiring northern Indigenous people 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 Indigenous 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 Indigenous 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.
Lake Sturgeon Stewardship & Enhancement Program
We initiated the Lake Sturgeon Stewardship & Enhancement Program as a commitment to maintain and enhance Lake Sturgeon populations in areas affected by our operations.
Our report, Lake Sturgeon in Manitoba - A Summary of Current Knowledge (PDF, 1.6 MB), summarizes what is known about Lake Sturgeon, such as the most recent population and ecology information.
Grand Rapids Fish Hatchery
The Grand Rapids Fish Hatchery became a part of Manitoba Hydro in 2007. The Hatchery strives to contribute to fish recovery efforts, facilitate research, and educate the public. Our facility includes a research centre and visitor centre, and is currently undergoing upgrades to increase capacity.
Every year, Grand Rapids Fish Hatchery coordinates with other stakeholders to collect fish eggs in northern Manitoba between late May and early June. The Hatchery rears 2 species of fish: walleye and sturgeon.
The Nelson River Sturgeon Board actively manages the sturgeon population through activities such as tagging the fish and recording data on age, length, & weight, and collecting spawn for breeding and re-stocking. Manitoba Hydro participates on the Nelson River Sturgeon Board with the provincial government, 4 Northern Affairs communities, and 3 First Nations communities.
Sturgeon Conservation Aquaculture
Each spring, the Nelson River Sturgeon Board collects eggs from adult sturgeon in the Nelson River and sends them to the Grand Rapids Fish Hatchery for grow-out. Some sturgeon are also raised at a stream-side hatchery at Jenpeg which is run by the Nelson River Sturgeon Board. Lake Sturgeon are stocked as larvae, fingerlings and yearlings at various locations along the upper Nelson River.