Dik Coates, P.Eng. (Man)

From Dik Coates, P.Eng. (Man.) of Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mail:  dikcoates@gmail.com

The following is the substance contained in a letter to Ms. Sarah Guillemard dated January 21, 2021.

I was surprised that Manitoba Hydro was proposing to continue with the flooding of South Indian Lake. This, personally, is a sensitive issue. ‘Engineering gone wrong’ is when a major engineering project fails to properly accommodate effects, both short term and long term, that the project has on the socio- economic, the environment and the natural resources of the project area. In addition to the damage to the resources of the area, there is also desecration of indigenous burial sites. The province, glibly dismisses this, by considering the gravesite contents as artifacts.

The original flooding of South Indian Lake was my first exposure to ‘engineering gone wrong’, and I was greatly disappointed with the lack of care and judgement shown by the engineering profession. It is because of the initial devastation of South Indian Lake that I do not wear the traditional engineer’s ‘iron ring’.

At the time, hearings were held by Manitoba regarding the proposed flooding. I submitted a brief to those hearings; this was approximately fifty years ago. The general consensus of the people submitting briefs, at the time, was that Manitoba was going to proceed with the Hydro proposal to flood South Indian Lake, and that the hearings were a mere formality. The province is using the ‘same playbook’.

It is my understanding that many of the harms described in the original hearings have come to fruition. The surrounding communities have experienced an increase in delinquency, crime, unemployment, alcoholism, drug use, and family breakdown. The records can confirm this breakdown of the family units and the community. There is a real conflict of interest with the Province of Manitoba reviewing the Hydro proposal.

Manitoba should recuse themselves from any approval process; Hydro, is a crown corporation and Manitoba profits from this relationship regardless of the success of their projects. The main reason is that Manitoba has a vested financial interest in the outcome of Hydro’s actions. A review and adjudication of the Hydro proposal should be undertaken by a disinterested third party.

As a side note, it is interesting that Manitoba is prepared to further disrupt the communities affected, by flooding the area, with one of the effects being able to sell hydro power for the benefit of the United States. If Manitoba refuses to recuse themselves from the decision to grant Hydro permission for Hydro’s Augmented Flow Program, the communities affected should seek a remedy through the Canadian court system.

The federal government’s assistance in halting the proposed flooding would be greatly welcomed and appreciated by the communities. If the federal government fails to act on behalf of the indigenous people of the area, then international agencies should be contacted to see if they can intervene to stop Hydro’s flooding and disruption to the aboriginal communities of the area. Bringing the proposed flooding to the international venue will be an international embarrassment not only to Manitoba, but also to Canada. The appearance of Canada and Manitoba on the ‘world stage’ may be a strong incentive for all parties ‘to do the right thing’. Canada is still reeling from the UN’s refusal to provide a seat on the Security Council last year; in votes received, Canada was behind, both Norway and Ireland.

The Manitoba government should revisit their decision to grant permission for Hydro’s Augmented Flow Program. An alternative must be prepared by Hydro so that future work does not include the proposed program. Failing this, all legal efforts, federal political actions, or international suasion should be considered to compel the province to do the ‘right thing’.

From Dik Coates, P.Eng. (Man.) of Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mail:  dikcoates@gmail.com

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