Manitoba Hydro is proposing to build the Conawapa Generating Station on the lower Nelson River. The generating station (GS) will be the largest hydro-electric project ever built in Manitoba and will generate approximately 1485MW of electricity. The proposed Conawapa generating station will be situated at Horseshoe Bay approximately 210 kms downstream of York Landing and upstream of the Nelson River estuary and the York Factory coastal Resource Management Area. This is an area traditionally used, occupied, and managed by YFFN. YFFN is concerned that Conawapa may cause significant and permanent social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts on the people of YFFN and our territory.
Because of these interests, YFFN approached Manitoba Hydro and sought to engage them in a process of examining the potential impacts of Conawapa and ways that the project could be planned and developed to provide economic and social benefits to its members.
Manitoba Hydro is obligated under the 1995 Comprehensive Implementation agreement to consult with YFFN on any future developments on the Nelson River. YFFN was also the first First Nation involved in the proposed Conawapa Project to conclude a Process Agreement with Manitoba Hydro in December 2006. This agreement sets out a process for YFFN’s participation and funding in the planning and consultation process for the project. The agreement sets forth the mutual intent of YFFN and Manitoba Hydro to identify potential positive and negative effects, which may affect YFFN’s unique connection and relationship to the land and resources in the lower Nelson River area.
The planning and the environmental assessment process for this project is in an earlier stage than that of the Keeyask project, and it is not clear if there will be any option for a business partnership in the project. However, the environmental studies program is underway and Manitoba Hydro and their consultants are conducting field studies at the Conawapa site, and along the Nelson River, the Weir River, and the Nelson and Hayes River estuaries. A number of YFFN members have been employed by the environmental field studies.
There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the timeline for the environmental assessment and regulatory approval process for Conawapa. However, as of July 2012, Manitoba Hydro’s website stated that “the earliest possible in-service date is 2023. Construction would take 8 to 8.5 years after receiving all regulatory approvals and licenses.”
For more information, please see Manitoba Hydro’s website.