This week the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC) released a report on the review of the regulation for hydropower development on the Nelson River off Lake Winnipeg. The report confirmed that while Manitoba Hydro is not responsible for Lake flooding, the crown corporation will be required to undergo a full environmental assessment to renew its license.
Manitoba Hydro’s 50-year license to regulate the lake is set to expire in 2026. It therefore is seeing a permanent license to ensure it has enough water to maintain full capacity of generating stations downstream of the lake.
The report includes the CEC’s review and findings from public hearings with more than 300 people and 20 communities, including Aboriginal communities, that took place between January and May 2015. The hearings will inform the licensing conditions for the project.
“The report presents a substantial and thoughtful approach to the regulation of one of our most important water bodies,” said Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Tom Nevakshonoff.
Although the CEC’s review found that precipitation—not hydro operations—were responsible for Lake flooding, the report acknowledge that the corporation’s operations are responsible for several unwanted downstream effects, including the destruction of Netley-Libau Marsh.
The commission made a total of 34 recommendations, some of which fall outside its mandate to study lake-level regulation. The minister noted the province will be reviewing these recommendations and proceeding with appropriate implementation, to be determined as part of the licensing process.