Thursday, Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard signed off on a permit that grants Manitoba Hydro a permanent licence to manipulate the Churchill River within the operating parameters laid out on temporary terms decades ago.
Operation of the Churchill River Diversion began in 1976, on an interim licence issued under the Water Power Act. The move caused the water level of Southern Indian Lake to rise by approximately three metres, devastating ecosystems and First Nations communities in the region.
In 1986, Manitoba Hydro was given permission to increase the amount of water the utility diverted from the Churchill River by 15 per cent. What has become known as the augmented flow program now allows the Crown corporation to raise and lower the water level of Southern Indian Lake by as much as three to 4.5 feet.
Northern First Nations communities had been lobbying the government to deny the permanent licence and reform operations surrounding the Churchill River Diversion.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont echoed those community calls and said Wednesday, ahead of the approval, that Manitoba Hydro’s operation around the river diversion was the province’s shame.