Even though Hydro-Quebec is looking at a partnership with the Crees, they’re mum about any deals.

Hydro spokeswoman Claudine Aucuit said the utility felt it was too early to go into any details. “In any case that’s privileged information between the partners,” said Aucuit.
She said a deal would have to be proposed by the Cree communities to Hydro. Aucuit would only say that “it’s a commercial deal.”

Almost two years ago. Hydro dusted off an old plan to build a hydro-electric project on the Eastmain and Rupert rivers. The plan would include diverting 90 per cent of the Rupert and channeling the water into the Eastmain river. From there, water would flow into the existing La Grande complex.

H-Q proposed that Crees invest in the project in exchange for a cut of the profits.
An official of the Waswanipi band wondered whether the Crees are courting disaster by contemplating partnership with Hydro-Quebec. “In the future, will we be able to fight against further development if we’re a player?” he asked.

“Entering into a joint venture like that would be just throwing away your ammunition when it comes to protecting the land and Cree way of life,” he said. He said the Waswanipi sawmill, which the band built as a joint venture with forestry giant Domtar, has affected “our power to protest.”

The official was worried that Hydro-Quebec will always be the majority shareholder, effectively making Crees a silent partner. “When you’re in the business of making profits it has to come from somewhere. You might have to destroy
the land to make or increase those profits.”

With Hydro-Quebec avidly courting the Crees on the project, it might be useful to know exactly what would be involved.

The project is divided into two parts: EM-1 and the Rupert diversion. The main elements of EM-1 are a 624-square-kilometre reservoir, a dam 68 metres high with 30 dikes and a powerhouse capable of delivering 5.1 to 5.6 TWh per year.

The Rupert diversion would see one of two scenarios: either 367 or 354 square kilometres flooded and the Rupert’s flow at the river’s mouth would drop down to 33 or 44 per cent of what it was before. Depending on the variant, the project cost would be $2.2 to $2.8 billion.

Hydro-Quebec claims the proposed project respects the conditions of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Aucuit claimed Mistissini Lake wouldn’t see any rise in its levels. But Mistissini Chief Kenny Loon recalls seeing differently during H-Q’s presentation in his community. He said the utility foresaw “minimal impacts” on the lake.

Crees would see 222 to 226 kilometres of new permanent roads in Mistissini, Nemaska and Eastmain traplines as a result of the project. Aucuit wasn’t able to give any figures on how many workers would be hired for the project, saying the design must be defined first. Hydro says it would take five construction seasons. A work camp would be set up near Nemaska for the new influx of workers. Perhaps Crees would finally see some of those 150 H-Q jobs promised in the 1986 La Grande Agreement for a target date of 1996.