UPDATE – Canadian agencies, Cree nation advance 200-MW Wuskwatim

Federal, provincial, and tribal agencies of Canada granted approvals in June to the 200-MW Wuskwatim hydroelectric project proposed for northern Manitoba.

Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose said June 21 that the project requires no further assessment by a review panel or mediator under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The minister declared the C$1.2 billion (US$1.1 billion) project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Ambrose referred the project to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Transport Canada, two agencies responsible for issuing project licenses and permits.

Province-owned utility Manitoba Hydro is developing the project in partnership with the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation on the Burntwood River, 45 kilometers southwest of Thompson, Manitoba, and 35 kilometers southeast of the Cree community of Nelson House.

Manitoba agency issues licenses for Wuskwatim

In a separate action, Manitoba Conservation issued two provincial licenses for Wuskwatim, including a license for construction, operation, and maintenance of the powerhouse, and related dams, dikes, channels, control structures, roads, and other infrastructure.

Manitoba Hydro said the second license covers construction, operation, and maintenance of a related transmission line project.

A waterpower license from Manitoba Water Stewardship is pending. Once approved, that license would allow the partnership to use water to operate the powerhouse with regulated flows and levels.

Six years of construction is expected to begin this summer.

Cree nation votes to develop Wuskwatim

Members of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation voted June 7 and 14 to approve development of the project in partnership with Manitoba Hydro.

Seventy percent of eligible members cast ballots in Nelson House, Thompson, South Indian Lake, Leaf Rapids, Winnipeg, and Brandon, Manitoba. About 62 percent of those voting approved. Chief Jerry Primrose announced the outcome June 15, declaring victory for the future of the 4,000-member nation.

The Wuskwatim Project Development Agreement gives the native group an opportunity to own up to a third of the project, and includes long-term potential for it to earn millions of dollars and contains financing and liability protections for Cree investment.

The project is expected to provide employment for Cree members and revenues of about C$100 million (US$90 million) in construction contracts for Cree businesses and joint ventures.

For information on tender opportunities when they become available, see Manitoba Hydro’s Internet site, www.hydro.mb.ca.

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