Monday 2 April 2012

Bipole disorder: What's a caribou to do?

You might be surprised to learn that caribou is not just a delicious beverage. It is also a species of large deer-like creature that lives in the bushes of Manitoba. I have never seen a caribou, but I am inclined to believe they exist, and that we should protect them so that they continue to exist.

I was reminded of caribou while reading this post about Manitoba Wildlands and their concerns related to Bipole III:
Seven woodland caribou herds are located in the study area, with greater risks for four herds ... Manitoba Hydro was allowed to define the project area, study area, and local study area so it can pick information to use, including to self assess impacts..
Kind of funny that one of the people responsible for putting the beasts in harm's way has his mug on page 2 of the 2006 study that shows they're in harm's way. Also funny that the 2011 Caribou Action Plan only covers the two herds in Eastern Manitoba. One might get the impression that we only have those two herds!

So, let's go back to the 2005 report. It includes a map that shows where the all the various caribou herds were located at the time:

While herds move around, the general area in which they're located tends to stay the same. (There is a map from 5 years prior in the report to illustrate.) I took the map and added the "final preferred" route for the west-side bipole III line as best I could:

As you can see, the route definitely cuts through at least three caribou ranges (6, 7 & 10), and likely impacts herds 3, 8 & 9 as well as they move around. The seventh herd that Manitoba Wildlands is likely referring to is herd 2 (Kississing).

Of the six herds that are impacted by Bipole III, four are listed as a "conservation concern" -- one "high" and three "medium". In spite of the fact that there is a "high concern" herd in western Manitoba, the government's Action Plan only addresses the two eastern herds. Why is that? They certainly planned on studying western herds. From the 2006 report:
Such plans will be developed initially for the high risk ranges and will include population and habitat monitoring, research and communication. This plan development process is well underway for the Owl-Flintstone lakes range and has been initiated on the Atikaki-Berens, Naosap Lakes and Wabowden ranges.

What the hell happened to Naosap and Wabowden? I'm going out on a limb here and saying that with west-side Bipole III impacting both herds, they suddenly became unimportant to the government. If you have a better explanation, please speak up.

I don't have a good map of the proposed east side route because Hydro seems to have removed it from their web site, and it was never finalized anyhow, but it would look something like this:
The Atikaki-Berens range would be impacted, and possibly Owl-Flintstone as well, although this report says that the range historically never got any nearer to the lake. Atikaki-Berens has the largest range, extending right from Lake Winnipeg into Ontario. I'm not a caribou expert, but that suggests to me that perhaps the caribou have a little more leeway in avoiding the HVDC line than the western herds which are more constrained.

Jon Gerrard might tell you that the caribou could be avoided all together by sending Bipole III down the middle of Lake Winnipeg, and he might be right. In any event, the concern here is that the environmental impacts of the western Bipole III route are being glossed over. Let's be nice to our furry friends and make sure they're protected on BOTH sides of the province, so that maybe .. maybe .. one day I can see one in the wild. And shoot it. (Just kidding! Yeesh ..)


Anonymous said...

When will people realize that the west side route has nothing to do with conservation the environment, and everything to do with the unions that will benefit from having a longer, less efficient line to build and maintain?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon - Why does longer equal less efficient?

Riverman said...

@Anon 12:49, electrical physics state that longer is less efficient. It is an indisputable fact.

cherenkov said...

To expand on that: all DC lines lose electricity. The longer the line, the more energy is lost. At full capacity, the incremental line losses from the longer west route are equivalent to the electricity used by all homes in Brandon combined.

Anonymous said...

Never noticed before, The two lines together look like the grinch hitch hiking

Rod Rouge said...

According to the map, he'd be right (Dr. Jon). It is a little odd that the underwater line isn't getting more of a look, given that it is the mid-priced alternative in cost to build (if you believe any of the estimates, which I really don't). Add the 'complications', obviously including caribou bipole disorder, and the watery line looks better and better. I keep wondering if this might be a Manitoba skill set that could be exported to boot (watery line running.)

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