Construction on the 695-megawatt Keeyask generating station in northern Manitoba officially kicked off today.
The Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP) said in a statement it officially broke ground today on the new dam, which is a joint effort between Manitoba Hydro and the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation.
"With today's announcement, we have reached a significant milestone in our Nation's history," Michael Garson, chief of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, said in a news release. "We will now finally begin to realize the hard won benefits set out in our development agreements, including a brighter future for generations to come."
A 2009 joint development agreement between Manitoba Hydro and the four First Nations governs how the project will be developed. It also contains language related to potential income opportunities, training, employment and business opportunities.
Manitoba Hydro provides administration and management services for KHLP and will own at least 75 per cent of the equity of the partnership. The four First Nations together have the right to own up to 25 per cent of the partnership.
The first generator’s in-service date is targeted for 2019 with all units being operational by 2020 at a total cost of $6.5 billion. Once completed, the Keeyask generating station will provide an average of 4.4 million kilowatt hours of energy each year.
Manitoba Hydro is building the dam about five years before Manitoba will need the power so that it can sell it south of the border to U.S. utilities.
The generating station will be located on the Nelson River approximately 30 kilometres west of Gillam.
The Keeyask dam recently was approved by a special panel of the Public Utilities Board and was granted an environmental licence following public hearings before the Clean Environment Commission.
The PUB said while it recognized the business case for the dam, and new transmission line to the U.S., it also said it was somewhat restrained in its decision because Hydro had already spent about $1.4 billion on pre-construction work and negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Frontier Centre For Public Policy released a report today that looks at less costly options for building new dams and transmission lines.