The Ongoing Impacts of Northern Hydro Development
Ruined fishing camp and debris at Split Lake. Photo credit: Whitney Light.
Manitoba celebrates the “clean energy” that comes from Manitoba Hydro’s damn systems in the province’s North. But to call this energy “clean” is a misnomer.
MEJC members recently participated in a tour of northern communities affected by Hydro projects. We heard harrowing accounts of how dams changed landscapes and the lives of those living on them. While it’s common knowledge that flooding at the time of dam construction alters or destroys ecosystems, many would be shocked to learn how environmental destruction continues to impact lands and lives in Manitoba’s North.
In the 1970s, commercial fisheries at Grand Rapids and Norway House that each used to sustain 1,000 fishermen can now barely support 100 because of how the ever-changing water levels effect fish breeding.
In South Indian Lake, locals described how the lake rose 21 feet in 23 days this spring, damaging boats and docks and killing wildlife.
On Playgreen Lake near Norway House, and at, Split and South Indian lakes, we saw miles of eroding shoreline. Due to unnaturally fluctuating water levels, banks erode and trees fall in, creating hazards and increasing C02 levels from the rotting wood.
As Manitobans we should be proud that our electricity production does not come from burning fossil fuels. At the same time, we cannot be careless about our energy production. The last dam Manitoba Hydro built (Wuskwatim Generating Station, on the Burntwood River) currently produces energy at 13 cents that it can only sell for 3 cents, demonstrating that there is no market for more energy production.
Yet Hydro is building more dams. While increasing our rates.
We have the opportunity to make a difference! Hydro must follow its licences around how much it can raise and lower water levels annually. Hydro regularly ignores these guidelines using an annually renewed augmented flow program, to the detriment of all, and, sadly, with the permission of our government. Manitoba Hydro is a crown corporation, which makes it OUR company and OUR responsibility to hold them accountable. We must ensure that the energy we enjoy is produced in a conscientious and sustainable way.
Join us in the fight for Energy Justice in Manitoba. Let’s make sure our electricity has low monetary, social AND environmental costs!