Manitoba-to-Minnesota power line project begins ahead of schedule

WINNIPEG — A $453-million Manitoba-Minnesota power transmission project has started ahead of schedule.

Ottawa approved in June the line stretching from a point northwest of Winnipeg across the United States border, as long as Manitoba Hydro could meet certain conditions.

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Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen says conditions relating to Indigenous communities and groups impacted by the project have been met.

He says the Crown corporation received approval for an accelerated construction schedule last week.

Owen adds that concrete foundations are to be built and ground clearing is to begin in September.

He says the project is scheduled to be up and running next June.

The province has said the line would displace more than 1.5 megatonnes of carbon emissions by removing the need for coal south of the border.

Premier Brian Pallister clashed with the Manitoba Metis Federation over the project last year when he scrapped a $67-million deal that had been negotiated between the federation and Hydro to support the line.

Pallister called the deal "persuasion money" to a special interest group and the Metis filed for a judicial review of the decision, which is to be heard in September.

In response, nine of 10 Hydro board members resigned. They said Pallister had refused to meet with them to discuss important issues, including Indigenous rights.

Federation president David Chartrand has said he spoke with the new president of the Hydro board and was optimistic the utility would uphold its commitment to Métis people.

Currently, Owen says a work camp is being set up about just west of the village of La Broquerie and crews are moving tower lattice steel to various locations for assembly.

It is planned to be complete within one year, he says, but weather conditions could cause delays.

"If there's a lot more rain over the next couple of weeks, next couple of months, that will limit our ability to get access to, in particular, low-lying areas of the right of way," Owen says.

"What we really need is an early, cold winter."

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