The EM-1 hydroelectric project will reduce the flow of water at the mouth of the Rupert River by more than half, but according to Hydro Quebec’s recently released Environmental Impact Statement, there will be next to no impact on the environment.
According to the report’s executive summary, Crees will be able to continue their traditional ways of life in the area, but they will have to adjust. Most affected will be trappers from Mistissini, Nemaska and Waskaganish followed by, “to a lesser extent, the communities of Eastmain and Wemindji. Users of these traplines will have to change their habits and adapt to new conditions.” The report says the mean annual flow at the mouth of the Rupert will be reduced to 48.3 per cent of what it is now. The instream flow of the Rupert at its release point of the dam’s spillway will be 28 per cent of current water volume. Hydro-Quebec admits these changes will “probably make it less attractive to outdoor enthusiasts seeking untamed rivers.”
The river’s fish, however, are expected to even increase in population, according to the executive summary. “Fish communities throughout the territory affected by the project will be maintained without difficulty because of their ability to adapt and because of the mitigation and compensation measures.”
Those are the most immediate changes Crees in Eeyou Istchee will see from the Rupert River diversion. Other impacts are less obvious.
So the Cree Regional Authority asked economic consultant Robert McCullough to analyze Hydro-Quebec’s Justification chapter in the impact study for EM-1 and Rupert Diversion to see if the CRA got its money’s worth. McCullough is less than positive in his written remarks.
McCullough writes that, “Overall, the Proponent’s presentation in the very brief Justification lends itself to a baseball metaphor. The Proponent has barely touched upon each of the bases in turn – so briefly that an umpire must make the call whether the Justification in going to be declared a run or the player will be ‘out.’”
McCullough goes on to say that this doesn’t mean that the Justification is incorrect but that “it is a far cry from state of the art.”
McCullough says Hydro-Quebec’s most serious problem concerns energy reserves and alternatives. Hydro-Quebec dismisses this issue as not being applicable within the context of a major hydro-electric project. But McCullough says he has no idea how alternatives cannot matter to the project.
The McCullough Report questions Hydro-Quebec’s purpose in building the EM-1 project. “Is it the pursuit of profit or the welfare of Quebec? If Hydro-Quebec’s objective is the maximization of profit, the Justification is woefully insufficient.”
The report also attacks the possible second reason: “If Hydro-Quebec’s purpose is the maximization of the welfare of Quebec, then the Justification fails to review alternatives in any significant fashion.”
The Directives on how to prepare the Hydro-Quebec Statement very clearly required Hydro-Quebec to show a consideration of alternatives. McCullough says this was not done. Instead H-Q provided a short narrative listing possible alternatives without any true indication if they were viable or not.
The Hydro-Quebec Strategic Plan itself shows one of the potential weaknesses of the EM-1 and Rupert Diversion Project, saying, “Runoff is still the risk with the greatest impact on the company’s financial results.”
This means that there may be not enough water to make the project viable. But Hydro-Quebec’s Strategic Plan has said they have taken this possibility into account. The previous Strategic Plan also worried about global climate change and said they must study it so run-off wouldn’t be a problem.
Given that Hydro-Quebec views global climate change and the impact on runoffs as so important, McCullough can’t understand why under the Justification chapter of Hydro-Quebec’s Impact Statement on the EM-1 and Rupert Diversion they would dismiss it as being “not applicable.”
Overall, the McCullough report says Hydro-Quebec didn’t fully answer all the questions they were directed to.
The question remains will Hydro-Quebec have to go back and redo the report or will they be given a pass to continue?