Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment

Manitoba Hydro developments on the Churchill, Burntwood and Nelson river systems

The Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment is a joint undertaking between Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Government. The Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment (RCEA) of existing hydroelectric developments will be retrospective in nature and will assess environmental change (quantitative and qualitative) and socio-economic effects over time in the main areas directly affected by Lake Winnipeg Regulation, Churchill River Diversion and associated transmission projects.

The 2013 Clean Environment Commission Bipole III Report included a list of licensing and non-licensing recommendations to be carried out by Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Government. On behalf of the government, the Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship committed to implementing these recommendations.

The Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment is intended to address Clean Environment Commission non-licensing recommendation 13.2 from the report, that states:

“Manitoba Hydro, in cooperation with the Manitoba Government, conduct a Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment for all Manitoba Hydro projects and associated infrastructure in the Nelson River sub-watershed; and that this be undertaken prior to the licensing of any additional projects in the Nelson River sub-watershed after the Bipole III project.”

The Clean Environment Commission report describes the rationale for this recommendation. During the Bipole III hearings, some communities expressed concerns regarding the effects that they have experienced, and continue to experience, as a result of existing Manitoba Hydro projects. The Clean Environment Commission noted that:

“…it became apparent that past hydroelectric developments in northern Manitoba have had a profound impact on communities in the area of these projects, as well as on the environment upstream and downstream.”

The Manitoba Government and Manitoba Hydro have developed an agreed to Terms of Reference that outlines a joint approach for the government and Manitoba Hydro to undertake a Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment of hydroelectric developments in a manner that addresses Clean Environment Commission Recommendation 13.2.

The Terms of Reference provide for a 2-phase approach to undertaking the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment, and outline the scope of the assessment, the approach to the study, end products, a process for collaboration between the Manitoba Government and Manitoba Hydro, and a project schedule.

Phase I

Phase I is an interim report to provide an early indication of the approach and documentation being used to undertake the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment. The report provides the proposed scope of the project, a discussion of the history of hydroelectric development, and a summary of available information to determine the cumulative environmental effects of northern hydroelectric development on the Churchill, Burntwood and Nelson River systems. Phase I also outlines Manitoba Hydro’s understanding of the socio-economic effects experienced by communities in the main areas directly affected by Lake Winnipeg Regulation, Churchill River Diversion and associated transmission projects.

Phase II

The Phase II report was prepared by Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Government in accordance with the requirements of the Terms of Reference for the second phase of the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment. It fulfills the Clean Environment Commission’s non-licensing recommendation 13.2 of the Bipole III Transmission Project Report on Public Hearing (June 2013).

This report is intended to retrospectively assess and describe the cumulative effects of hydroelectric development on the people, the water, and the land in the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment Region of Interest. This assessment describes, to the extent possible, the overall health of the ecosystem.

Integrated summary document

This document summarizes the key effects in the RCEA Region of Interest from the development and operation of Manitoba Hydro’s hydroelectric system as presented in the Phase II report.

Outreach program

The Clean Environment Commission was asked to facilitate public outreach on the RCEA. In 2016, the Commission sent letters to each affected community advising them of the completion of the Phase 2 RCEA report as well as letters inviting the communities to participate in the outreach program and explaining how to access funds to support their involvement if desired.

The public outreach program involved written submissions from communities in the study area and the general public, as well as three community meetings with the Commission in the study area and two more meetings with a community and a stakeholder group in Winnipeg. The program was concluded in the winter of 2018. A report on the program and the Commission’s own review of the RCEA was submitted to the Minister of Sustainable Development in May 2018.

Documentation of the RCEA Public Outreach Program can be found at the Clean Environment Commission website.

Next steps

Manitoba Sustainable Development and Manitoba Hydro are reviewing the Clean Environment Commission’s report and are in the process of developing appropriate next steps.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment, please contact us.