Project of the Bay-James
The Projet of the Bay-James (or Complex Large the or LG ) refers to the hydroelectric installations on the Grande River, in the North of the Quebec, Canada, and the derivation of part of water of the rivers Eastmain, Opinaca and Caniapiscau towards the Large River.
The area of the Bay-James, or Jamésie , is bordered by the Baie James in the west, the areas of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Saguenay-Lake-Saint-Jean in the south, the Coast-North and the Labrador in the east, and the Nunavik in north. The rivers of the area have their source on the Plate laurentien Canadian Bouclier with a rise of more than 500 meters. The catchment area of the hydroelectric Complexe Large the includes/understands approximately: 177000 km ², are 12 % of the surface of Quebec.
The annual electric production of the Complex the Large one amounts to approximately 83 térawatt-hour (TWh), that is to say approximately 43 % of the electricity consumed in Quebec (estimated at 193 TWh in 2003). The seven hydroelectric stations of the Complex the Large one, built between 1974 and 1996, have a capacity installed of: 16021 megawatts (MW) and function on average with 60 % of their capacity.
Clear exports of electricity towards the Ontario, the New Brunswick, the Vermont and the State of New York rose on average in 14 TWh between 1981 and 2005 and had reached a top of 28,8 TWh in 1987 at the time of the startup of the largest power stations of the hydroelectric complex. In 2004 and 2005, however, clear exports of electricity amounted only to 1,5 TWh and 6,7 TWh respectively, that is to say the equivalent from 0,8 to 3,5 percent of the total intake of electricity in Quebec, any confused production.
The construction of three new power stations between 2003 and 2011 (Eastmain-1, Eastmain-1A and Sarcelle) and the derivation of the higher course of the Rivière Rupert towards the power stations of the Large River will make pass the capacity installed to: 17389 MW and total production of the Complex of the Bay-James with approximately 94 TWh. The increase anticipated in the rainfall of the area due to the Climate warming should increase this production.
The hydroelectric potential of the rivers of the North of Quebec drew the attention of the government of Quebec as of the years 1950, but the development projects hydroelectric of the Chutes Churchill, with the Labrador, and of the river Manicouagan, on the Coast-North, proved easier to realize in the medium term, which caused to delay the development of the rivers of the North of Quebec.
During the nationalization of the majority of the private producers of electricity of Quebec in 1963, the company of State Hydro-Quebec received in heritage the results of the preliminary studies on the hydroelectric potential of the rivers of the James bay carried out by the Shawinigan Light and Power , which exploited hydroelectric stations on the Rivière Saint-Maurice. Its preliminary studies related to the rivers in the south of the area of the Bay-James, bordering on the catchment area of the Saint-Maurice. At the end of the years 1960, one second option is proposed by Québécois engineers: the development of the Large River and the river Eastmain, in the septentrional part of the area of the Bay-James.
The Project of the Century
The element release occurred in 1970 at the time of the election of a new Prime Minister for Quebec, Robert Bourassa, a young economist preaching an economic modernization centered on the development of the Québécois natural resources hitherto unexploited. The development of the hydroelectric potential of the rivers of North offered the occasion to attract the foreign assets, to increase the employment level and to carry out substantial incomes by exporting the surpluses of electricity in the American North-East (New York and states of the New England).
May 1st, 1971 in Quebec, in front of a gathering of the Liberal party of Quebec, Robert Bourassa revealed his project to build several hydroelectric stations on the rivers of the area of the Bay-James, either on the rivers Nottaway, Broadback, Rupert and Harricana in the south, or on the Grande River in north. The decision in favor of the second project is made in May 1972. The preliminary draft related to the construction of four power stations on the Large River and the derivation of the rivers Caniapiscau, Opinaca and Eastmain towards the catchment area of the Large River, thus doubling its flow with the mouth. The responsibility for the “ Project of Bay-James ” fell on the Company of energy of the Bay-James, a company directed by Hydro-Quebec; on the Company of development of the Bay-James fell the construction of the basic infrastructures (roads, campings and provisioning) necessary to accommodate some: 12000 people working directly or indirectly on the building sites.
Since environmental evaluations were not necessary in Québécois right at that time, the construction of a way of 620 km of the south towards the rivers of the James bay began since 1971. It was supplemented in October 1974 with the total costs of approximately 400 million Canadian dollars. In 1973 and 1974, a temporary way of ice was employed to transport heavy equipment necessary to the construction of the 13 principal bridges crossing the rivers of the area.
Although the Cris of Quebec used the area for hunting, fishing and the trapping, no permanent access road existed before 1971; the existing access roads ended with Matagami and Chibougamau. The initial opposition to the project was sharp in the 5000 Cries of the Bay-James, the 3500 Inuits of the North of Quebec and certain groups of nature conservation which affirmed that the government of Quebec had not respected its commitment of 1912 by private contract to mean with the autochtones area and that the hydroelectric project would destroy their traditional territories of hunting, fishing and trapping. Moreover, the Cries and Inuits had not been informed of the nature of the project before the beginning of the building work of the Route of the Bay-James, at the summer of 1971.
After difficult negotiations, punctuated several requests in front of the courts, the governments of Canada and Quebec and the representatives of the Cries and Inuits of Quebec meant in November 1975 on the Convention of the Bay-James and Québécois North. Convention granted to the Cries and Inuits exclusive rights of hunting and fishing on territories of an total surface area of approximately: 170000 km ² as well as financial equalizations with short and medium term of approximately 225 million dollars. N the other hand, the government of Quebec obtained the right to develop the hydraulic resources, mineral and forest North of Quebec. The future power station the Largeone was to as be built further as envisaged village cry from Fort George.
Convention envisaged also a very tight environmental follow-up of all the aspects of the project, energy of the construction of the tanks and roads with the installation of the lines of transmission to high voltage, and envisaged the setting-up of a process of environmental evaluation for all future project in the area. Precise convention, however, that the Cries and Inuits will not be able to be opposed to a future hydroelectric project because of its social impacts.
The first phase of the project of the Bay-James covers one period of approximately 14 years. In 1986, the construction of the principal works was entirely completed, of which the power stations Robert-Bourassa (the Largeone in the past), the Largeone and the Largeone, with a capacity installed of: 10800 megawatts, and five tanks of an total surface area of: 11300 km ². The derivation of the rivers Eastmain and Caniapiscau added approximately 1600 m ³ /s with shares equal to the Large River.
The power stations of this first phase of the project of the Bay-James produce approximately 65  annually; TWh of electricity and function with approximately 60 % of their maximum capacity. Electricity is forwarded to southernmost Quebec by five lines of transmission of 735 kilovolts and a line of 450 kilovolts in D.C. current connected directly with the American network of transmission.
The second phase of the project extends until 1996 and includes/understands the construction of five additional power stations on the Large River and its affluents (the Largeone, the Largeone, Laforge-1, Laforge-2 and Brisay) of a capacity installed of 5200 megawatts. Three new tanks of an total surface area of 1600 km ² are also created, of which the Laforge-1 tank of a surface of 1288 km ².
The power stations of this second phase of the project produce approximately 18,3 TWh of electricity annually and function with 60 % or 70 % of their maximum capacity. At the end of this second phase of the project of the Bay-James, the capacity installed of the whole of the Complex the Large one is carried to: 16021 megawatts and average annual production with approximately 83 TWh.
The project of the Large-Whale
During the construction of the second phase of the project of the Bay-James, the government of Quebec and Hydro-Quebec announced their intention to proceed with the construction of the Complexe Large-Whale , centered on the Grande river of the Whale, the Small river of the Whale and the Coast river, in the Nunavik, in the north of the area of the Bay-James. Envisaged by name in the Convention of the Bay-James and Québécois North of 1975, the Complex Large-Whale includes/understands the installation of three power stations on the Large river of the Whale, which has a unevenness of 400 m on a distance from 370 km, the derivation of water of the Small river of the Whale and the Coast river towards the catchment area of the Large river of the Whale and the creation of four hydraulic reservoirs. The two basins slopes have an total surface area of: 59000 km ², of which 20 % is covered with fresh water. The creation of the tanks, including the raising of the level of the lake Bienville, would have flooded approximately 1667 km ² of territory, is 3 % of the surface of the two basins slopes.
The hunters and fishing cries and inuits of the twinned villages of Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik, with the mouth of the Large river of the Whale, would have lost certain territories of hunting bordering, but the opening of new roads would have facilitated the access to the zones of hunting of the interior and would have allowed them to better distribute their activities of hunting and fishing on the whole of the territory. In 1993, approximately 30 % of the provisioning of food of the inhabitants of the area still came from hunting and fishing.
With a working installed capacity of 3210 megawatts, the three power stations of the Complex Large-Whale would have produced 16,2 TWh of energy annually, of which 11,1 TWh with the power station Large-Whale-1 with some 40 km of the villages of Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik. The total costs of the preliminary studies and the studies of environmental impact carried out by Hydro-Quebec and its subsidiary companies rose with more than 250 million Canadian dollars.
Cries of the Bay-James, of which Cries of Whapmagoostui, and Inuits of the village of Kuujjuarapik were opposed with firmness to this new project, fearing the impact on their communities and the environment. The Large Council of the Cries, under the direction of the Big boss Matthew Coon Like, in particular led advertizing campaigns to New York with an aim of preventing the sale of Québécois electricity to the American distributers.
The Cries of the Bay-James, which were always assimilating the cultural and economic changes massive associated with the opening of the Route of the Bay-James in 1974, worried about the impact of the prolongation of the road of Radisson towards the village of Whapmagoostui and of the resumption of the large building sites in the area. As of the beginning of the year 1980, the natural flow of the Large River and rivers Eastmain, Opinica and Caniapiscau had undergone material changes and approximately 4 % of the traditional territories of hunting of the Cries had been flooded by the tanks, of which 10 % of the territories of the hunters of the village of Chisasibi. At the same time, the access to the territories far away from the area of the Tank Caniapiscau and border of the Labrador, was largely facilitated by the opening of the road of the Bay-James, the creation of the large tanks, and the increasingly intensive use of motoneiges and planes of bush by the hunters cries.
The project of the Large-Whale was suspended by the government of Quebec in 1994, little time after the withdrawal of the State of New York of a contract of purchase of the Québécois electricity of a value of several billion dollars.
The Eastmain-1 project
At the beginning of 2002, the government of Quebec and the Large Council of the Cries, then directed by the Big boss Ted Moses, signed a historical agreement, “ The Peace of Braves ”, in order to provide the foundations of a new relation between the government of Quebec and the Cries of the Bay-James. The agreement envisages the construction of the last shutter of the original project of the Bay-James, namely construction of an hydroelectric station about the higher course of the Eastmain river, with a capacity installed of 480 megawatts, and of a tank of a surface of 600 km ² (central Eastmain-1 and Eastmain tank). The Eastmain-1 project, forming integral part of the project of the Bay-James of 1975, is fixed with no additional environmental evaluation. Launched since 2003, the project will produce 2,7 TWh of energy annually since 2007.
The January 11th 2007, the building work of the Eastmain-1A hydroelectric stations and Sarcelle as well as the works necessary to the derivation of the higher course of the Rupert river were officially launched at the time of an advertisement in which took part the Prime Minister for Quebec, Jean Charest, the general President-director of Hydro-Quebec, Thierry Vandal, and the big boss of the Cries of Quebec, Matthew Muskash. The project will require an investment of approximately 5 billion Canadian dollars between 2007 and 2012. This project envisages the derivation from approximately 50% of the discharge of river Rupert (and 70% at the point of derivation) towards the new Eastmain tank and the Complex the Large one, as well as the construction of two new power stations, Eastmain-1A and Sarcelle, with a capacity installed of 888 megawatts. Grounds of a surface of 346 km ² will be flooded by the new level connecting the catchment area of the Rupert river to the Eastmain tank. These two power stations will produce approximately 3,2 TWh of energy annually and the existing power stations of the Large River (Robert-Bourassa, the Largeone and the Largeone) will increase their production of approximately 5,3 TWh, for a net profit of 8,5 TWh.
The derivation of the Rupert river was authorized by the governments of Quebec and Canada at the end of 2006 in spite of the opposition of certain Cries of the affected communities (Waskaganish, Nemaska and Chisasibi) and several ecologists groups of the south of Quebec. The environmental evaluations of the project of derivation of the Rupert river, carried out jointly by the governments of Quebec and Canada and the representatives of the the Large Council of the Cries of Quebec, were supplemented in 2006. The two evaluation reports were favorable to the project of derivation. The governments of Quebec and Canada at once gave their downstream to the realization of the project of derivation of the Rupert river towards the Complex the Large one.
The hydroelectric project was made possible in 2004 put an end to all the litigations which opposed the Large Council of the Cries and the Government of Quebec about the development of the territory of the Bay-James and opened the way with a joint environmental evaluation of the project of the Rivière Rupert. The Big boss of the Cries of Quebec, Matthew Muskash, elected in 2005, opposed in the past the project of derivation of the Rupert river.
The project of the derivation of the Rupert river is the third project suggested by Hydro-Quebec for the Rupert river. Complex NBR under consideration with the beginning of the year 1970 by the engineers of Hydro-Quebec for the rivers Nottaway, Broadback and Rupert, and envisaged with the Convention of the Bay-James and Québécois North of 1975, included/understood the construction of ten hydroelectric stations of a working installed capacity of approximately 8 000 megawatts and an annual production of 53 TWh. Last nine stoppings were then envisaged on the Rupert river, of which the first with less than 5 km of the village of Waskaganish, as well as the derivation of water of the Eastmain river towards the Rupert river, in the south. Even the Lake Mistassini, more the natural big lake of Quebec and the source of the Rupert river, would have been transformed into tank with a marling of approximately 11 meters.
In 1990, Hydro-Quebec proposed an alternative of Complex NBR centered on the construction of a series of seven stoppings on the Broadback river and of two stoppings on the higher course of Rupert, with an annual production of 45 TWh of electricity; meanwhile, the higher course of the Eastmain river had been diverted towards the Large River). Each project of 1975 and 1990 envisaged the creation of new tanks which would have involved the flood of approximately 4 500 km ² of grounds. The realization of the “ Complex NBR ” definitively by the derivation of the higher course of the Rupert river towards the Complex the Large one will be thus isolated.
The construction of the hydroelectric Complex the Large one included/understood the derivation of the rivers Caniapiscau, Opinica and Eastmain towards the Bassin pouring Large River and the flood of approximately 11 000 km ² of northern forest. The discharge of river Eastmain to its mouth was tiny room of 90 %, close to the Village cry to Eastmain, that of Caniapiscau of 45 % with its junction with the Koksoak river, and that of Koksoak of 35 % with its mouth close to the Scandinavian Village of Kuujjuaq. The flow of the Large River, on the other hand, was doubled, passing from 1 700 m ³ /s with 3 400 m ³ /s on an annual base (and of 500 m ³ /s with 5 000 m ³ /s during the winter), close to the village cry of Chisasibi, with the mouth of the Large River.
The intense bacterial activity in the years following the creation of the new tanks, which usually lasts from 20 to 30 years in boreal area, converts part of the mercury present in the ground and the organic matters submerged into méthylmercure (CH3Hg). In this form, mercury is neurotoxic and accumulates in the watery food chain, in particular in piscivorous fish species, such as the large pike, the gilded touladi and yellow one. Part of the mercury which is in all the lakes, rivers and reserves of Québécois North comes from the polluting emissions from the thermo plants functioning with the coal from the industrialized countries, in particular the the United States and the Canada.
After the discovery of the presence of mercury to elevated levels in the blood of the Cries of the area of the Bay-James, before even the creation of the tanks on the Large River, the local authorities of health drew up particular instructions concerning the consumption of fish. Although the consumption of wild fish is still strongly recommended by the health authorities, because of its great food value, the fish capture at certain specific places of the new tanks is, for the moment, disadvised and the consumption of fish predatory (or piscivorous) should be restricted, especially in the expectant mothers. At the time of certain studies of follow-up, only some inhabitants of the village cry of Whapmagoostui - who eat fish coming from the virgin rivers of the Nunavik - still posted a mercury high rate. In 2005, the aquatic environment of the reserves of the Complex the Large one, whose Middle Age reaches 18 years in 2005, resembles more and more that of the natural lakes of the area.
The environmentalists feared in the beginning that the project of the Bay-James would have an significant impact on the migratory birds; however, the hydraulic reservoirs submerged only 1 % of the zones used by the birds and their population has been remained stable for more than 30 years. Moreover, the fresh water plume to broad of the mouth of the Large River, which is definitely larger in wintry time, seems not to have impact significant on the aquatic life and faunal of the area. Obviously, the global warming seems to have a more important impact in this Scandinavian environment than the change of the hydraulic mode of the Large River, preventing for example the formation of the Banquise S off the coasts on which depends the seals, close to the villages of Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik to the mouth of the Large river of the Whale.
During the construction and the filling of the Réservoir Caniapiscau, which extended from 1981 to 1984, of the important variations of the flow of Caniapiscau would have contributed to the drowning of 10 000 caribous, is approximately 1,5 % of the herd of the George river. However, since 1985, the reduced flow of the Caniapiscau river and the Koksoak river caused to reduce the risk of flood on the lower course of Caniapiscau for the period of the migration of the caribous, of the end of the summer at the beginning of the autumn. On an annual base, approximately 30 000 caribous are killed by the hunters inuits and cries and the American and European sporting hunters.
In the wake of the conference of Kyoto on the climate changes of 1997, a debate rose on the gas emissions with greenhouse effect produced by the large hydraulic reservoirs, in particular because of the production of methane by the biotic activity of the aquatic environment. However, the gas emissions with greenhouse effect of the large reserves in boreal area represent from 1 to 4 percent of the emissions associated with the Thermo plants functioning with the coal and from 2 to 8 percent with the emissions with a central with cycle combined functioning with the Natural gas.
Finally, exports of Québécois electricity of 1989 to 1996, for the period when Quebec had important surpluses of electricity, caused to avoid gas emissions with greenhouse effect in the coal centres and with oil in Ontario, in the State of New York and in the States of the New England, that is to say some 87 equivalent million tons of CO2.
The signature of the Convention of the Bay-James and Québécois North in November 1975 represents a point turning in the history of the relations between the Inhabitants of Quebec of European origin, established in the valley of the river the St. Lawrence, and the Nations autochtones of Quebec. At the time when hunting, fishing and the trapping were declining in the villages cries of the area, at the end of the years 1960, the project of the Bay-James provided to the Cries the financial and material resources to face the environmental and social consequences project and to take in hand future economic development their communities while creating, for example, of the transport and building firms (Air Creebec). From 1975 to 1999, the Cries received allowances adding up 450 million dollars (Canadian currents) and contracts of a value of 215 million dollars, while Inuits received allowances of 140 million dollars and contracts of a value of 120 million dollars.
The project of the Bay-James also made it possible the Cries to forge a collective identity and to create political institutions and social collective, of which the Grand the Council of the Cries (Eeyou Istchee) in 1974. The Convention of 1975 also created structures administrative and political for the local businesses, economic development, the schools and the health services, for the majority under the control of new regional political institutions, the regional Administration shouts in the area of the Bay-James and the regional Administration Kativik with the Nunavik.
The social impact of the project of the Bay-James himself remains modest compared to the impact of the increasingly frequent contacts between the communities shout of the North and the social and economic forces of French-speaking Quebec. The principal impact rises from the opening in 1974 of the road binding the town of Matagami to the new administrative center of Radisson, close to the central Robert-Bourassa (the Largeone) and to the Village cry of Chisasibi. For the peak period of the construction of the first phase of the Complex the Large one, towards the end of the year 1970, Radisson had a population several times higher than that of Chisasibi.
Nevertheless, the communities shout still isolated from the area of Bay-James militated in favor of the construction of new roads in order to bind the villages of Wemindji, Eastmain and Waskaganish to the Route of the Bay-James, to approximately 200 km in the east. These last access roads, open between 1995 and 2001, facilitated the access to the territories of hunting and encouraged the commercial exchanges and social with the cities of the south (Matagami and towns of Abitibi-Témiscamingue). A distinct road connects also the road of the Bay-James to Chibougamau, via the village of Nemaska. The construction of these new roads was generally entrusted to the companies shout of the area.
The construction of the road of the Bay-James and the sudden reduction of the costs associated with transport also opened the area of the Bay-James to mineral exploration and the exploitation of its northern forest. These activities exert additional pressures on the traditional activities of hunting, fishing and trapping in the area, in particular in the villages of Waskaganish and Nemaska. These activities, which represented more half of the economic activity of the villages at the end of the years 1960, represent nothing any more but less 20 % of the economic activity at the end of the century. Hunting and the trapping are practiced especially by the young adults and the old adults who do not have professional qualifications. These activities are also reinforced by a mode for maintaining incomes, financed by the government of Quebec (15 million dollars per year), which offers the equivalent of modest wages to the hunters and their families which live hunting for at least four months each year.
The social impact must however be moderate by a cultural impact definitely less positive, as that is well described in the novel Harricana of Bernard Clavel, industrialization destroyed a rich person cultural heritage at the communities autochtones.
The project of the Bay-James involved material changes in the lifestyle of the Cries of the Bay-James, especially at inhabitants of the villages of Chisasibi and Eastmain which are downstream from hydroelectric installations. The debate concerning the environmental impact of the project of the Bay-James undoubtedly will continue for still many years, the ones underlining the modification of a vast boreal ecosystem still in a wild state in 1971, the others the production of a vast quantity of energy without Pollution.
At the moment when the industrialized countries and the developing countries build thermo plants with coal more and more, with their polluting atmospheric emissions (Gaz with greenhouse effect, SO2, mercury, suspended particles), the hydroelectric energy of the Complex of the Bay-James appears in comparison like a clean energy source and durable.
Hayeur, Gaëtan. 2001. Synthesis of the environmental knowledge acquired in Scandinavian medium 1970-2000. Montreal: Hydro-Quebec
- Hornig, James F. (ED.). 1999. Social and Environmental Impacts off the James Bay Hydroelectric Project. Montreal: McGill-Queen' S University Near.
- Hydro-Quebec, Bay-James, Nottaway-Broadback-Rupert and Eastmain, summary description, Montreal: Hydro-Quebec, May 1972.
- Hydro-Quebec, Complex NBR, Montreal: Hydro-Quebec, 1990.
- Draper, Guy and Gilles Ritchot, 1997. The James Bay: lower parts of a meeting which the bureaucracy had not provided, Books of geography of Quebec , No 113 (September 1997), p. 137-169.
- Quebec. Energy for contruire Quebec of tomorrow. Energy strategy of Quebec 2006-2015. Quebec: Ministry for the natural resources and Fauna, 2006.
- Turgeon, Pierre. 1991. Radissonie, country of the James bay. Montreal: Free expression, 191p.
- Simard, Jean-Jacques. 1996. Scandinavian tendencies, the social changes 1970-1990 at the Cries and Inuits of Quebec. Quebec: Laval university.
- Tremblay, Varfalvy, Roehm and Garneau. 2005. Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Flux and Processes. Springer, 732 p.
- hydrous System of the Large River (Hydro-Quebec)
- Central Eastmain-1 (Hydro-Quebec)
- Project Eastmain-1-A and Dérivation Rupert (Hydro-Quebec)
- Evaluation report Quebec-Cries (November 2006)
- Evaluation report Canada-Cries (December 2006)
- Network of transmission of Hydro-Quebec
- human Environment of the area of the Bay James
- Municipality of the Bay James
- the Large Council of the Cries (Eeyou Istchee)
- Company of energy of the Bay James
- Office of information public (Eastmain-1-A Project and Rupert derivation)
- the Peace of the brave men, 2002 (Text of the agreement)
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