The Grand Council of the Crees

Eastmain-1-A-Sarcelle-Rupert / Crees / Sierra Club of Canada

Rupert River powerhouses to be built, says Charest

Posted: 2006-08-11

LA PRESSE (Jocelyn Richer) ? Premier Jean Charest and Hydro-Québec President, Thierry Vandal, appeared confident yesterday saying that the Eastmain-1-A-Sarcelle-Rupert project would materialize as planned, despite recent opposition.

"When I meet the Cree chiefs, and they choose not to call into question the projects, it's because things have been well handled," declared the Premier during a briefing that took place after he launched the process to complete the commissioning of the Eastmain-1 powerhouse almost one year ahead of schedule.

From now to late fall, the powerhouse will gradually add 480 MW of power to Hydro's transmission system.

Yesterday, in front of workers at the site and of Hydro-Québec President, Mr. M. Charest was proud to activate the controls that would set in motion the first of three Eastmain-1 generating units.

The new megawatts at Estmain-1 are being produced "just in time," said Mr. Vandal, pleased with the significant revenues of the last few weeks resulting from the sale of electricity to our neighbours in the South and in Ontario who are facing a heat wave.

The controversial project

Now that Eastmain-1 is completed, all eyes will be turned more than ever toward the Eastmain-1-A-Sarcelle-Rupert project - a much more massive and controversial project - which is waiting for environmental approvals from Québec and Ottawa following joint public hearings held recently.

The Eastmain-1-A-Sarcelle-Rupert project will provide an additional 888 MW of power. The project requires the diversion over a vast territory of two thirds of the Rupert River, which is met by opposition from some environmentalists and some members of the Cree community. Recently, three Cree chiefs denounced the project that will require the construction of two powerhouses.

Except that the Crees voted "individually" by referendum and approved the project, Premier Charest pointed out yesterday.

"We can't constantly doubt the people in front of us, especially when they have participated in a referendum," adding that the Grand Chief of the Crees, Matthew Mukash, who opposed the project before being Chief, is no longer calling into question the diversion of the Rupert River in order to produce more megawatts.

The President of Hydro-Québec said that everything had been done according to good practice and that the Crees had been involved in the process every step of the way.

" We have now reached the end of this process. I'm very confident. It's a very good project, environmentally speaking," he said.

This is hydro-Québec's most important project of the decade. Its completion should require an investment of about 4 billion dollars.

Upon his arrival late Wednesday night at the Nemaska airport, in James Bay, the Premier was greeted by a few environmentalists, including Daniel Green, from the Sierra Club of Canada, who claimed their presence was a "coincidence" but who insisted on speaking with him to convey they concerns.

As mentioned during the public hearings, Mr Green told Mr. Charest that he believes Hydro-Qu?bec is underestimating the impact of the diversion on the local populations.

According to the project, included in the 2002 Paix des Braves Agreement, the Crees will receive approximately 70 million dollars for 50 years.

The commissioning of facilities should take place between 2009 and 2012.

By fall, if the project passes the environmental evaluation test, the Crown Corporation could announce that it?s going forward and that construction may begin.