Image: Great Falls Dam (file photo)
By Don Norman
Manitoba Hydro has granted a temporary reprieve that grants public access to the walkway over the Great Falls Dam. Access to the Great Trail across the Dam was reopened on January 8 and will remain open until at least May 1, 2021, according to a letter to the RM of Alexander sent from Manitoba Hydro’s Vice-President of Operations, Shane Mailey. “I am writing in response to your letter dated November 30, 2020, requesting public access to “The Great Trail” across Great Falls Generating Station,” read the letter. “This letter confirms Manitoba Hydro’s decision to open the walkway across Great Falls Generating Station beginning January 8, 2021 until May 1, 2021 as requested.”
Manitoba Hydro closed the walkway after a young man drowned in the quarry on the north side of the river on July 12. Hydro leased the land where the quarry sits decades ago to mine rock to use at the dam site. Currently the easiest access to the site is across the dam from Great Falls.
RM of Alexander CAO, Don Dowle said he was pleased with Hydro’s announcement but says there’s still work to do. “As much as this is a very positive step in the right direction it is nevertheless a temporary reprieve,” he said.
Dowle said that the municipality will continue to work with stakeholders to see if a permanent solution can be found. “This will include satisfying Hydro’s concerns about the public use of the quarry site. Since the old quarry is a provincial responsibility we are working to engage with the province and expect to discuss this with Minister Ewasko and other senior provincial officials in the very near future.”
In a subsequent email to community stakeholders and representatives of the trails, Dowle said he thinks that in order to move forward, the province has to get on board and said he’s planning talks with provincial representatives towards that end. “My view is that it is imperative that the province sign on to this. Crown Lands (Mines branch) and Conservation must be part of the solution. They are the only player who can address any concerns about the quarry – as some of you have pointed out it is Crown Lands who owns the land and Conservation who manage recreational use of crown lands.”
But Dowle also reiterated the importance of making sure Manitoba Hydro was comfortable with any proposals and would request specifics from the crown corporation.