The Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project (the Project) is a $453 million project proposed by Manitoba Hydro, consisting of modifications to two existing transmission lines and the construction of a 500 kilovolt (kV) new international power line (IPL) from northwest of Winnipeg to Minnesota, crossing the Canada-U.S. border near Piney, Manitoba. The IPL would connect with the Great Northern Transmission Line in the U.S.
Because the Project would be located in Manitoba but would cross an international border, Manitoba Hydro requires a Class 3 Licence under Manitoba's Environment Act, as well as a permit under section 58.11 of the National Energy Board (NEB) Act. On December 15, 2017, the Project was designated for a certificate (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) process under section 58.16 of the NEB Act. The certificate process was to facilitate Indigenous consultations and ensure that any Indigenous concerns could be appropriately addressed.
Following an assessment by the Manitoba Public Utilities Board and an environmental assessment by Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC), on April 4, 2019, the Manitoba Minister of Sustainable Development issued a Class 3 Licence, approving the Project, subject to 64 conditions.
The Project was also subject to review by the National Energy Board (NEB) under The National Energy Board Act and an environmental assessment under The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, with the NEB as the Responsible Authority. On November 15, 2018, the NEB issued its Reasons for Decision approving the Project, subject to 28 conditions and the approval of the Governor in Council.
To guide the Government of Canada's decision-making on the Project, the following measures are being taken in accordance with the Interim Measures for Pipelines and Other NEB Reviews, announced in January 2016.
On June 13, 2019, the Governor in Council (GIC) approved the issuance of Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity by the National Energy Board (NEB) to Manitoba Hydro to construct and operate an international power line under and in accordance with section 58.16 of The National Energy Board Act, subject to 28 conditions.
As part of its decision, the GIC directed the NEB to issue the certificate with amendments to five amended NEB conditions (Conditions 3, 15, 21, 22, and 26).
Undertake deeper consultations with Indigenous peoples
To fulfill the duty to consult, the Government led a supplemental consultation with 21 Indigenous groups on the Project to supplement the NEB assessment.
Between August 2018 and May 2019, the Major Projects Management Office met with the 12 Indigenous groups expressing an interest in consulting with the Crown to discuss the Project's potential impacts to section 35 Aboriginal and Treaty rights, as well as potential accommodation measures, if necessary.
To support the meaningful participation of Indigenous groups in supplemental consultations, the Government offered up to a total of $294,000 in participant funding to 21 Indigenous groups on the Crown list.
Details regarding the procedural and substantive aspects of consultation with 21 Indigenous groups, including Indigenous concerns and corresponding accommodations, are outlined in the Crown Consultation and Accommodation Report (CCAR) (PDF version - 2.51 MB).
Extensions to the legislated time limit for the Government's decision on the project
To provide sufficient time for consultations with Indigenous groups, the Governor in Council granted two extension from February 15 to May 16, 2019 and from May 16, 2019 to June 14, 2019, to the legislated timeline under The NEB Act for a final decision on the Project.
In response to concerns raised by multiple Indigenous groups, the Minister of Natural Resources recommended to Governor in Council that five NEB conditions be modified to further address impacts to section 35 rights. These changes ensure Manitoba Hydro follows through on commitments made to Indigenous groups and accounts for concerns raised by Indigenous groups regarding the impacts of the Project:
- NEB Condition 3 (Implement of Commitments)
- NEB Condition 15 (Commitments Tracking Table)
- NEB Condition 21 (Issues Tracking)
- NEB Condition 22 (Crown Land Offset Measures Plan)
- NEB Condition 26 (Wetland Offset Measures Plan)
In response to Indigenous concerns raised during the NEB assessment but outside the scope of review and not incidental to the Project, the NEB made three suggestions to the Governor in Council and other agencies. The Government has developed responses to the Board's suggestions. Responding to suggestions also respects the direction laid out in the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision on Tsleil-Waututh Nation et al v. Canada 2018 FCA 153.
NEB Suggestion 1: The federal and provincial Crowns should consider developing the terms of reference and funding for a regional environmental assessment for southern Manitoba.
Response: To respond to Indigenous concerns regarding cumulative effects on traditional land use, Natural Resources Canada will establish a terrestrial and cultural studies initiative to support Indigenous-led studies to improve understanding of land-based issues such as harvesting plants on the land, hunting of land-based animals, and cultural impacts of changing the landscape and resources. The results of these studies would provide information on cumulative effects of development in Southern Manitoba on Indigenous rights and could inform the operations and maintenance phases of this Project.
In addition, Canada has various initiatives in place to support cumulative effects work in the Lake of the Woods area, including, for example, the Lake of the Woods Science Program, a five-year (2016-2021) science program to study the factors affecting water quality in the Lake of the Woods. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is collaborating on this work with Indigenous organizations, the US, as well as international and binational organizations and non-governmental researchers. The International Joint Commission is active in the Lake of the Woods area, and is developing "objectives and alert levels" to assess monitoring information collected by federal, provincial and state agencies, and advise Governments of water quality and aquatic ecosystem priorities for action. ECCC will continue to work with Indigenous communities through its programs and initiatives in the Southern Manitoba area near Lake Winnipeg and east towards the Lake of the Woods.
NEB Suggestion 2: The federal and provincial Crowns, together with appropriate water boards, should assess the impact on communities and wild rice producers affected by fluctuating water levels of Lake of the Woods.
Response: Canada acknowledges concerns raised regarding the impacts of fluctuating water levels on traditional uses of these waters for economic, social and cultural uses and the consideration of Indigenous perspectives in water level decision-making. In response, the Crown proposes to engage all jurisdictions involved, Indigenous Peoples, and other relevant parties to respond to these concerns. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) will lead work to assess the process and context for water level regulation in the Lake of the Woods. A participative approach is proposed to examine and identify potential improvements to the Lake of the Woods Control Board engagement and decision-making processes.
NEB Suggestion 3: Where Crown consultation is required, the NEB, should by default, recommend a certificate process for all international power line applications under section 58.16 of the NEB Act to the Minister, unless the specific circumstances make it clearly inappropriate to do so.
Response: Canada understands the rationale for the NEB's suggestion and the need to ensure that NEB assessments provide meaningful opportunities for Indigenous participation and Crown consultation. The government recognizes the authority of the NEB to recommend a certificate process for international power line applications, should it choose to do so. The Government is supportive of the NEB adopting such a practice.