Like some monster in a bad horror movie, the Great Whale project has been killed for the third time.
The Grand Council of the Crees issued a press release on Jan. 22 rejecting the latest proposal to revive the hard-to-kill hydro-electric project.
This time. Crees were promised that they would eventually be 100-percent owners of the facility.
The Grand Council still isn’t interested. “Great Whale is still dead,” said Grand Chief Ted Moses in the statement.
“The Crees rejected the Great Whale River hydro-electric project when it was last proposed by Hydro-Quebec. That decision still stands,” he said.
Moses said Crees are still trying to get Hydro-Quebec to fulfill past obligations dating back to the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
“Until those obligations are respected, it does not make sense to discuss new proposals.
“My office is constantly receiving proposals for all kinds of projects, including hydro projects. But no approval has been given for any projects concerning Great Whale.”
The press release was issued one day after The Montreal Gazette carried a report that Cree band officials in Whapmagoostui and Chisasibi were quietly discussing a proposal to develop the Great Whale.
Contacted after the Grand Council issued its press release, Whapmagoostui Chief David Masty agreed that the project is now on ice.
“It’s dead as far as we are concerned,” he told The Nation.
Some Cree officials were angered about the discussions, saying they had been going on for months with virtually no community involvement.
On Jan. 18, the proposal was on the agenda at a community meeting in Whapmagoostui. Sources said community members, including a number of Elders, were highly opposed to reviving the project, regardless of who owns it.
“It’s still a no, a big no,” said one community member.
The latest plan came from Toronto engineering firm Amec Inc., which proposed to design and finance the project. The idea was to dam up the Great Whale River and divert it into Hydro-Quebec’s existing La Grande dam complex.
At Amec, there was confusion after the Grand Council press release. A spokesman denied the company had made any proposal to the Crees. “As far as I know, there is no proposal that has been by this company,” said Hugh Irvine, an Amec official in Oakville, Ont. “Maybe some engineers were talking to some Crees. (But) I would be surprised (if there was a proposal).”
Gérald Désourdy, a consultant to Amec in Montreal familiar with the proposal, scoffed at Irvine’s comment, but wouldn’t comment on the Cree press release: “It is a project that belongs to the Crees, so it’s up to them to comment.”
Ghislain Ouellet, Hydro-Quebec’s vice-president for operation of generating facilities, also said he hadn’t heard of the idea: “It’s the first time I’ve heard of it. What you tell me surprises me.”