SHERBROOKE, QC, Oct. 31, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - Two Innu leaders stated their case concerning the Quebec – New-Hampshire Interconnection Project at a meeting with the Bureau of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE), held last week in Sherbrooke. A case which states that the project will accentuate the destruction of the iconic Betsiamites River on Quebec's North Shore. They also argued that Hydro-Quebec lied to the New England public about the conservation of Atlantic salmon in the same river, and also about the displacement of Pessamit Innu families during the implementation of hydropower projects on their Nitassinan (ancestral territory).
"It's as if the Hydro-Quebec is not subject to federal and provincial laws when it comes to increasing revenues, especially when actions occur to the detriment of Aboriginal peoples," said the Pessamit Innu Chief, René Simon. The implementation of the Quebec – New- Hampshire Interconnection Project involves the contribution of peak-load power stations, used to meet short-term peak demands. Since the Bersimis-2 plant, located on the Betsiamites, is being used for this purpose, we can expect massive exports to the New England states, which will continue or even increase the degradation of the river. The two leaders presented a strong case to the BAPE, alleging that Hydro-Quebec has shown bad faith in this file.
The current hydraulic management1 of the Betsiamites River is having a devastating impact on salmon productivity. Yet, Hydro-Quebec affirmed in a statement issued in New England on March 9, 2015, that: "The Atlantic salmon has not been eliminated in Quebec's rivers as a result of hydropower development. (...) Furthermore, Hydro-Quebec limits possible impacts on fish populations through the careful design of its generation facilities and by modifying water flow rates throughout the year." False! Hydro-Quebec's hydraulic management has a devastating impact on salmon productivity. It is contributing to the leaching out of the fry from rearing sites, the peeling of eggs from spawning grounds, and the clogging of the latter by the clay banks made naked, in addition to directly affecting the survival rate of smolts. The result is a dramatic drop in the number of salmon. Indeed, between 1940 and 1950, we recorded catches of about 1,000 salmon per year. That number dropped by more than half since the establishment of the dams in the early 60s. According to the Quebec ministry of Forests, Fauna and Park criteria, the Betsiamites River salmon faces very real short term extinction, and in view of trend lines established from 1948 to 2015, the salmon population could potentially disappear in the immediate future. It is clear that Canada's performance stands well below its international commitments concerning salmon,2 as shown by Hydro-Québec's behaviour on the Betsiamites River. Quebec's complacency in this regard is scandalous!3
In a letter published on January 16, 2016 in the Concord Monitor newspaper in New Hampshire, Hydro-Quebec writes: "It's a myth to talk about "displaced native peoples" in the context of Hydro-Quebec's projects. Hydro-Quebec and Aboriginal people have developed various partnerships to ensure communities benefit from economic spin-offs of projects (...)." "How can you say such a thing, when it has been clearly demonstrated that from the '50s onwards, the government has exerted pressure to force the settlement of the Pessamiu Ilnut (Pessamit Innu)?" asked Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL). As such, families who brought their children to the Nitassinan to practice traditional activities were deprived of family allowances. Coincidentally, it is precisely at this time that many hydroelectric megaprojects were implemented, all completed in 1978. Another lie in the Hydro-Quebec letter published in the Concord Monitor is about the economic benefits mentioned. All stations built on the Pessamit Nitassinan have been implemented without impact assessments, without authorization and without compensation, which comes into direct contradiction with the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982. As part of the QC-NH Interconnection Project, Hydro-Quebec thus plans to export unconstitutionally acquired electricity at the expense of Pessamit.
Taking bolder steps
"Since the second half of the nineteenth century, Pessamit has been trying to uphold its legitimate rights associated with the Betsiamites River. Over the past five decades, we have actively participated in all democratic exercises to enforce our rights: parliamentary committees, briefs submitted to the Quebec government, scientific studies on the fragility of the salmon resource, and public hearings like this one. But all in vain. Quebec and Hydro-Quebec's bad faith always quashes our efforts. Faced with this new threat, the QC-NH Project, and faced with Quebec's age-old complacency, we have no choice but to undertake national and international action to change the course of history," Chief René Simon concludes.
Contextual and technical details
- Current hydraulic management: the frequency of flow variations are of 4590 cu/feet to 22 950 cu/feet, up to seven times per day. The same goes for current speed and water level variations, which fluctuate repeatedly by 5 feet in one day, according to energy demand.
- The Hydro-Quebec Impact Assessment does not take into consideration the Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean nor the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, both ratified by Canada and the United States. In terms of biological resources, these agreements are based on sustainability, protection and restoration, and they advocate a precautionary approach.
- With regard to the QC-NH Interconnection Project, we have found that the directive issued by the Quebec ministry of the Environment (MDDELCC) is a generic model for a 315 kv line for domestic supply in Quebec. We note further that it is designed according to a corporate segment of Hydro-Québec, centered on the administrative duties of Hydro-Québec Transénergie, which allows Hydro-Québec Production to avoid any environmental analysis. Thus, the government is violating the spirit of the Environmental Quality Act and the spirit of the Act Respecting the Exportation of Electric Power, the latter clearly prohibiting the export of electricity in any license that authorizes the installation of a transmission line, and also clearly stipulating that the export of electricity outside Quebec is an exceptional measure authorized by decree of the National Assembly only.
SOURCE PESSAMIT FIRST NATION