UPDATE – Hydro-Quebec rebuts claims aimed at Eastmain 1A/Rupert

Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec has issued a statement accusing dissident Cree groups and their U.S. environmentalist backers of spreading �falsehoods� about Hydro-Quebec’s 888-MW Eastmain 1A/Rupert Diversion project, already under construction in northern Quebec, Canada.

Eighteen groups, led by usual hydropower opponents Natural Resources Defense Council, International Rivers Network, and Friends of the Earth, said Sept. 12 that the project would adversely affect Cree communities and the environment by creating a massive reservoir to generate power to sell to the northeastern U.S. (HNN 9/13/07) They said concerns over environmental and health effects, together with increased project costs and reduced power requirements and forecasts have cast doubts on its need.

�Hydro-Quebec wishes to set the record straight regarding numerous falsehoods now being circulated by U.S. and Canadian groups regarding the Eastmain 1A/Sarcelle/Rupert hydropower project, the construction of which has been under way since January 2007,� the utility said.

Hydro-Quebec said independent federal and Quebec environmental review panels approved the project, with the federal panel noting there was no one alternative solution that could provide all the benefits of Eastmain 1A/Rupert. The utility added that the environmentalist claim that the project is �destroying the Rupert River� is false. The utility said the series of hydraulic structures it is building will preserve fish passage, navigation, fishing, and snowmobiling.

It also rebutted claims that the project is abusing the rights of the Crees.

Hydro-Quebec: Project an example of Cree cooperation

�Eastmain 1A/Sarcelle/Rupert is a singular example of Cree cooperation and involvement in a project on Cree territory,� Hydro-Quebec said, adding a referendum on a 2002 agreement with Hydro-Quebec was approved by 70 percent of the participating Crees. �Since then, the Crees have been project stakeholders and have participated in all stages of the project, from design to environmental follow-up.�

Hydro-Quebec added it is false to claim the project is only to supply the northeastern United States. It said the project will ensure a supply of renewable energy to Quebec by optimizing output from existing hydroelectric projects and will displace thermal generation and resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

The environmental groups voiced their support of Canadian environmental groups and three Cree communities opposing the project. Construction of the project began less than a month after Canada’s prime minister announced the government completed a review of a Federal Environmental Assessment Panel report and said the C$5 billion (US$4.8 billion) project could proceed. (HNN 1/15/07) The project is to be fully commissioned in 2012.

Activist: Project an example of aboriginal abuse

�Diverting the Rupert River for electric power generation to be exported to the United States creates dirty energy tainted with human rights abuses against our aboriginal peoples,� Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director Tom Goldtooth said. �This is another environmental and economic injustice being perpetuated against the Cree communities who have the most to lose.�

Four of the six Cree communities in the region affected by the project — the Eastmain Band, the Cree Nation of Mistissini, the Nemaska Band, and the Waskaganish First Nation — signed an agreement with Hydro-Quebec in 2002 giving their consent to the project. Also signing were the Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree Regional Authority.

However, two of the signing communities, Nemaska and Waskaganish, now have joined a fifth affected community, the Chisasibi, to oppose the project. All the affected communities, including the sixth, the Wemindji, previously participated in environmental and technical surveys of the project through the Cree-Hydro-Quebec Feasibility Study Group, the utility said.

The project involves construction of two powerhouses �- 768-MW Eastmain 1A and 120-MW Sarcelle -� and partial diversion of the Rupert River to the Eastmain 1 reservoir. Water diverted from the river will be run through turbines at 480-MW Eastmain 1, now under construction, and the Eastmain 1A powerhouse. It also will be directed through existing powerhouses in the La Grande complex: 5,328-MW Robert-Bourassa, 1,998-MW La Grande 2A, and 1,368-MW La Grande 1.

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