Quebec’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Parks has issued a certificate of authorization for utility Hydro-Quebec to proceed with construction of the 888-MW Eastmain 1A and Rupert Diversion hydroelectric project.
With the provincial approval November 24, all that remains is for federal agency approvals, by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and by Transport Canada, to enable Hydro-Quebec to begin construction in Quebec’s James Bay region. (HNN 5/11/06)
The C$4 billion (US$3.4 billion) project would include the 768-MW Eastmain 1A and 120-MW Sarcelle powerhouses, four dams, 51 dikes, and diversion of part of the Rupert into the reservoir of 480-MW Eastmain 1. (HNN 8/17/06) Water from the Rupert also would increase generation at Hydro-Qu�bec’s La Grande Complex — 5,328-MW Robert Bourassa (formerly La Grande 2), 1,998-MW La Grande 2A, and 1,368-MW La Grande 1.
�This project perfectly reflects the Quebec government’s sustainable development initiative,� Minister Claude Bechard said. �Hydroelectricity, like wind power, is a long-term solution in the fight against greenhouse gases.�
Bechard said Quebec’s authorization includes 97 recommendations made October 31 by the provincial review committee, COMEX, to ensure the project’s integration with the territory while protecting natural and social environments. Of the recommendations, 14 refer to project design, 35 to the biophysical environment, one to follow-up of cumulative impacts, and 47 to the social environment and security of the installations and people.
The ministry said some recommendations require Hydro-Quebec to take new approaches. For example, it said, seasonal management of the Rupert River’s instream flow must be adapted to ensure environmental productivity is maintained.
The certificate of authorization also requires Hydro-Quebec to work with COMEX to set up a new hearing with the Cree population. The hearing, following construction but prior to start-up, is to hear the Crees’ point of view on the efficiency of mitigation measures. Public hearings were held in six Cree communities in 2006.
Three Cree chiefs condemn Quebec approval
On November 27, the chiefs of three Cree communities most affected by the Rupert Diversion issued a statement condemning the approval.
Although the governing body for all Cree First Nations held a referendum in 2002 that essentially allowed the project to proceed, a number of chiefs later opposed the project, saying its full effects had not been known.
�We are shocked that such a step would be taken before the environmental assessment process has been completed,� Chiefs Josie Jimiken, Robert Weistche, and Abraham Rupert said. �In acting unilaterally, the Quebec government seems to believe that the work of the federal review panel is relevant only to the federal permits required for the project.�
The chiefs also complained that the COMEX report was kept secret from the Cree Grand Council by the Quebec government until the day the province decided to authorize the project.
They said their contention that the project is unacceptable is expected to be confirmed by a referendum in their communities.