Bipole III construction work sparks conflict with farmers
A conflict between a group of farmers and Manitoba Hydro workers southeast of Winnipeg over work to build the Bipole III transmission line has entered its second day.
The conflict started when landowner Tim Wiens says he saw Hydro workers moving a dirty drill bit from
RCMP received reports of about a dozen protesters near a Manitoba Hydro transmission line site near Landmark around 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Tim Wiens owns land surrounding the Hydro work site, and used to own the land where the Hydro contractors are working until Hydro expropriated it.
He started the protest around 7 a.m. Saturday after he says he saw the workers moving a dirty drill bit from one site to another, which he says can contaminate the soil with seeds and diseases, including some that can affect animals.
A Manitoba Hydro spokesperson told CTV News the Crown corporation has been attempting to build the foundations for transmission towers for Bipole III. The power utility either has permission from the land owners to work on the land, or it already owns the land, said the spokesperson.
The farmers say they blocked a Hydro cement truck, but Hydro says their contractors remain on site. The Forbes Bros. Ltd. is the company doing the work, said the Hydro spokesperson.
In an email to CTV News, one of farmers accused Hydro of not respecting farmers’ property rights and using “bullying tactics” with landowners as they dig holes to construct the line.
Jurgen Kohler also said the Hydro workers don’t follow “biosecurity protocols” when doing work on the line.
RCMP said there have been no reported incidents yet. A spokesperson stressed that officers are not involved in the conflict, and that the force’s role remains “impartial.”
“While we recognize the right to peaceful and lawful protest, at this point our involvement is only to ensure the safety of the parties involved,” said Sgt. Bert Paquet in an email.
RCMP had one officer on scene monitoring the situation around noon on Sunday. There have been no weapons sighted and no safety issues reported, said Paquet.
Manitoba Hydro sent CTV a statement Sunday explaining the cleaning process.
"To prevent the spread of diseases, pests and invasive plant species, Manitoba Hydro and our contractors are following biosecurity protocols developed with the assistance of industry stakeholders, such as Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD). These protocols are risk-based and adapted to suit weather conditions. When the ground is frozen, as it is today, biosecurity risks are lower and our protocols dictate the following actions:
Before any augers are moved we scrape them to remove the loose material. Any remaining material, clays from below ground, are then sprayed with Virkon, a disinfectant used to help manage biosecurity risk. At this time of year, the top soil where contaminates could reside is frozen and does not adhere to the auger."