Manitoba Hydro applied to Manitoba Water Stewardship December 22, 2010 to replace the four decades old interim Lake Winnipeg Regulation (LWR) water power licence with a permanent licence issued under Manitoba's Water Power Act.
Since 1970 Manitoba Hydro has been regulating Lake Winnipeg water levels under an interim licence. The interim licence authorizes holding back Lake Winnipeg in spring and summer, and releasing water into the Nelson River in winter when energy demand is high. Essentially Lake Winnipeg—the 11th largest freshwater lake in the world—is manipulated to function as a 'battery' or resovoir for Manitoba Hydro.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger announced January 4, 2011 that public hearings would be a part of determining whether or not, and under what terms, a final LWR licence would be granted. The hearings, likely to be in fall 2011, will be the first time in almost 40 years that Manitoba Hydro will publicly answer allegations that its control of the lake leads to shoreline destruction, or growth of toxic blue-green algae.
"I think that will provide an opportunity for anybody with concerns to be able to put their comments in, and their research, and indicate their concerns with Lake Winnipeg regulation," Selinger said.
It is unclear if the Churchill River Diversion (CRD), which operates under a 1977 interim licence, will also be part of the Lake Winnipeg regulation public review and hearings. The Interim CRD Licences allow Manitoba Hydro to divert waters of the Churchill River into the Burntwood/Nelson River system and changes the flow and water levels of the affected areas and lakes. Kelsey Generating Station located on the Nelson River south of Split Lake operates with a short term amended licence while upgrades are made to the station. Limestone Generating Station located on the Nelson River North East of Split Lake operates on an interim licence first issued in 1976. Manitoba Hydro applied for permanent CRD licences May 6, 2009, but the application is still pending.
View January 4, 2011 Winnipeg Free Press article
View December 22, 2010 Manitoba Hydro Letter to Manitoba Water Stewardship (PDF)
View June 2, 2009 Manitoba Water Stewardship Letter to Manitoba Hydro (PDF)
View May 6, 2009 Manitoba Hydro Letter to Manitoba Water Stewardship (PDF)
View Manitoba Government: Water Stewardship, Churchill River Diversion website
View Manitoba Government: Water Stewardship, Water Power Licensing
View Manitoba Wildlands/Energy Manitoba 2005 Report on the Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Churchill River Diversion (PDF)
Sources: Manitoba Water Stewardship, Winnipeg Free Press