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First Nations on board to develop new Manitoba hydro station

Work is beginning this summer on infrastructure to support the $5.6-billion Keeyask hydroelectric generating station on the Nelson River in Manitoba.


Artist's rendering of Keeyask hydropower station on the lower Nelson River in Manitoba.  Image courtesy Manitoba Hydro.
Artist's rendering of Keeyask hydropower station on the lower Nelson River in Manitoba. Image courtesy Manitoba Hydro.

Work is beginning this summer on infrastructure to support the $5.6-billion Keeyask hydroelectric generating station on the Nelson River in Manitoba.

The 695-MW Keeyask Generating Station is the second hydroelectric project that Manitoba Hydro is developing in partnership with First Nations. The previous First Nations partnership was for the Wuskwatim station which is nearing completion.

The Keeyask station (Keeyask means “gull” in Cree) is located approximately 725 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and 175 kilometres northeast of Thompson. The site lies 35 kilometres upstream of the Kettle Generating Station which was built in 1974.

The Keeyask development will involve flooding approximately 45 square kilometres of land, creating a reservoir of 93 square kilometres. There will be seven generator units, with 2019 targeted as the date for the first unit to go into service.

Chief Louisa Constant of York Factory First Nations said in an announcement: “We wish for a better future for our First Nation and we have determined that participating in Keeyask is a benefit for our people. In addition to participating in the employment, business opportunities and investment opportunities in Keeyask, we are also ensuring that our perspectives and concerns are addressed in the environmental impact assessment related to Keeyask.”

The Manitoba Hydro-Keeyask Cree Nations partnership is now set to complete the regulatory review for the new hydro works, including finalizing the environmental impact assessment.

Preliminary conceptual design for the generating station and infrastructure was done by KGS Acres. The final design for the infrastructure was by a consortium of AECOM, Dillon Consulting and SNC-Lavalin.

Stantec, North/South Consultants and InterGroup Consultants have worked on the environmental assessments. The selection for who will do the final design for the generating station is in process.

The joint partnership between the Keeyask Cree Nations and Manitoba Hydro was established in 2009 to develop the new hydro station, with the Keeyask Cree Nations having the right to own up to 25% of the partnership. Regulatory approval was given earlier in 2011 for the infrastructure, which includes a 25-kilometre access road and worker accommodation units. There are also upgrades to Provincial Road 280 taking place.

The Keeyask project is being built to help Manitoba Hydro fulfil its agreement to export 475-MW over 15 years to Minnesota and Wisconsin. The utility is also in the process of selecting routes for the Bipole III high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will carry power south from Keeyask as well as from the planned 1485-MW Conawapa Generating Station in the Fox Lake Cree Nation Resource.

The four nations that are part of the Keeyask Hydropower partnership developing the station are the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, Fox Lake Cree Nation, and York Factory First Nation.

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Artist’s rendering of Keeyask hydropower station on the lower Nelson River in Manitoba.  Image courtesy Manitoba Hydro.