UPDATE – Canada approves construction of 888-MW Eastmain 1A

Canada’s federal government has approved construction of the 888-MW Eastmain 1A and Rupert Diversion hydroelectric project in northern Quebec.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Dec. 18 the government completed reviewing a Federal Environmental Assessment Panel report and said the project could proceed.

�This project is important for First Nations, the province of Quebec, and for Canada,� Harper said. “As our economy grows, so too must our supply of clean renewable energy.”

The ruling enables work on the C$4 billion (US$3.4 billion) project to begin before the ground freezes, avoiding several months of weather-related construction delays.

The Quebec government authorized the project in November, and a coalition of Quebec business groups subsequently urged the Canadian government to approve construction before the ground freezes. (HNN 12/13/06) Hydro-Quebec hopes to commission the project in 2010-2011.

The prime minister’s office said the hydro project is to create 5,500 jobs and have enormous economic benefits exceeding the project’s price tag.

�My government looks forward to working with First Nations communities, industry stakeholders, and the Quebec government as we finalize the regulatory process,� Harper said.

The project will include a 768-MW Eastmain 1A powerhouse at the Eastmain 1 reservoir on the Eastmain River. A 120-MW Sarcelle powerhouse at the outlet of Opinaca reservoir also is planned, along with the partial diversion of flow from the Rupert River watershed into the Eastmain River watershed.

The Eastmain 1A and Rupert Diversion project also will boost output of 480-MW Eastmain 1, 5,328-MW Robert-Bourassa, 1,998-MW La Grande 2A, and 1,368-MW La Grande 1.

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