Power line to Manitoba would cut cost of living even more than proposed highway, Rankin mayor says

Kusugak hopes Kivalliq gets plugged in


RANKIN INLET – A proposed road between the Kivalliq and Churchill would be good, but a connection to Manitoba's electrical grid would be better, says Rankin Inlet's mayor.

In an interview Tuesday, Lorne Kusugak said he's not against the proposed $1.2 billion road, backed by the Kivalliq Inuit Association, that would connect the three southernmost Kivalliq communities with Churchill, Manitoba and the rest of the Canadian highway system at Gillam.

But he said a hydro connection would do more to lower the cost of living in the region.

"If I had a magic wand I would push for a power line to Nunavut," Kusugak said.

Like the rest of Nunavut, Kivalliq communities generate their electricity by burning diesel fuel. Kusugak said a power line could end the costly annual bulk shipments of diesel, and the environmental risks that come with them.

Kusugak also suspects a power line would have a much lower environmental impact than a road. The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board has expressed concern a road would disrupt caribou migration patterns.

"I would think a [power line] would be a heckuva lot more environmentally friendly," Kusugak said.

The idea isn't new. Former Arviat MLA Kevin O'Brien lobbied for years to get a power connection for the Kivalliq, but without success. And Manitoba Hydro has shown interest in the project, since the Kivalliq would become a market for the utility's surplus electricity.

In 2001, a Manitoba Hydro official told Nunatsiaq News a power line connection could help attract mining companies to the region.

But the mining companies have come anyway, making the Kivalliq a hive of mining exploration, with prospectors scouring the vast region for diamonds, gold and uranium.

Kusugak said Nunavut Power Corporation and the Government of Nunavut could reduce their cost of building a power line, once estimated at $200 million, by getting mining companies to pitch in. Those companies also have to spend large amounts of money shipping fuel north, then hauling it, usually by air, to exploration camps and drill sites.

Nunavut Power has been looking for ways to cut back on the rising cost of diesel fuel. The utility is mulling a big-ticket hydroelectric dam in South Baffin to serve Iqaluit, which burns one third of NPC's diesel.

But Kusugak said the Kivalliq burns another third of NPC's diesel, and that's why the utility and the government should get behind a power line to Manitoba.

"It's a lot cheaper than a hydro dam and it's a lot cheaper than a road," he said.

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