The Great Whale project, which resurfaced again last summer, is now apparently back on ice, say Cree sources.
At the same time, we have new information that Hydro-Quebec is seriously eyeing the Rupert River and wants to revive the Eastmain River project.
The proposed Rupert River project would produce two times more power than Great Whale, according to a Hydro report that sheds new light on HQ’s plans.
Hydro quietly killed the Great Whale project after seeing there’s no way the Whapmagoostui people will change their minds about the project, sources said.
Romeo Saganash, the Cree negotiator with Hydro-Quebec, was apparently informed of the utility’s decision in February or March.
But we couldn’t confirm this or get any more details as Saganash hasn’t returned The Nation’s calls in the last six months.
The Rupert River diversion would reduce the river’s flow by up to 76 per cent at its mouth, depending on which of six variants of the project is chosen.
Up to 840 square kilometres of Cree land would be flooded. The Rupert would be diverted at one of two places, either KM 314 or KM 490.
Canals would take the water northward into yet another new project HQ wants to build, the Eastmain-1 hydro complex. From there the water would flow north into the La Grande system, then into James Bay.
The Eastmain project has been on the table for years, but Hydro didn’t go ahead becauseit would have cost too much as originally conceived.
Now, Hydro apparently believes the Eastmain project could be made profitable if the waters of the Rupert are added in.
“Eastmain is among the projects being restudied,” confirmed Michel Blais, Hydro’s chief of relations with the First Nations.
“We want to develop projects that cost less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. It’s certain Eastmain is more than 3 cents.”
Blais confirmed that Hydro is studying the idea of diverting another river into the proposed Eastmain-1 project to make it more profitable.
“One of the ways of optimizing the costs is diverting another river into the project,” he said.
The Rupert diversion would be one of the utility’s biggest projects, yielding up to 7.5 terrawatt-hours of electricity, according to the internal Hydro document.
Of the two options, the Km 490 one is less environmentally destructive, but would be built entirely on Category II land, according to the document.
Also in the document are details about the diversion of the now-iced Great Whale River project. The river would have been cut off by a dam at KM 295 and diverted toward Lake Kachiyaskunusi by canal, then toward the LG-2 reservoir.
Up to 68 square kilometres would have been flooded and the river’s flow would have been cut by half at its mouth. The project would have produced 3.8 TWh/ year, the document says.
The document doesn’t mention costs of any of the projects. It was presented to a HQconsultative committee last December.