A project to build two small hydroelectric plants on the Kipawa River is dividing the population of Abitibi-Temiscamingue.
On July 21, the MRC de Témiscamingue and three indigenous communities will submit a proposal to Hydro-Québec to build two small-hydroelectric plants on the Kipawa. It is this wild river that appears on the $10 bill to illustrate the natural location of the Canadian Shield.
In total, 42 megawatts (MW) of capacity will power 15,000 homes thanks to $200 million in investments. But a project called Onimiki (Thunder) divides the population.
There are those in favor: “This is a good project that will allow us to ensure energy autonomy while bringing significant economic benefits to the region,” said MRC Prefect Claire Bolduc, emphasizing the partnership with Anishinaabeg communities in Wolf Lake. and Kebawek. The Innu community of Lac-Saint-Jean is also a business partner.
Then there are the detractors: “The promoters have not consulted the citizens despite repeated promises”, says Louis Riopel, French teacher at the Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue and spokesman for the Kipawa River Festival. Water lovers last weekend.
The project also involves diverting a portion of the river to its source.
Mr Riopel fears the intervention will permanently and irrevocably alter the ecosystem in the area where Opemicon National Park has just been created.
Studies show that lake trout spawning, for example, is affected by variations in water level. The resort also raises issues: water receding will undoubtedly affect water sports enthusiasts.
The Abitibi-Temiskamingue Regional Council for the Environment, the Temiskaming Watershed Organization and the Lake Tee de Du Moulin Residents Association expressed their concerns in a letter sent to the MRC on December 14.
Without formally objecting to the Ominiki, these organizations claimed that many questions remained unanswered despite repeated requests.
The fault of the pandemic
Mme Bolduc affirms that consultation has run out of time, especially because of the pandemic. Inquiries are held after the submission of the project to respect the deadline. And studies are also conducted in compliance with environmental standards in force.
Alain Salatzius, president of the Rivers Foundation, regretted that we do not know the effects of the project on the ecosystem, because the flow issues were not presented. His organization “supports groups asking for information”.
Four mini power plants are coming up
After abandoning hydropower projects of less than 50 megawatts under Pauline Marois, Hydro-Québec has restarted a program of mini-power plants from private developers. The power generated is purchased by the state corporation. Here are four projects that will be built in the next few years.
Four Mile Falls Hydroelectric Power Station
- Power: 5.5MW
- Region: North Coast
Six Mills Falls Hydroelectric Station
- Power: 13.2MW
- Region: North Coast
- Power: 7.25MW
- Region: Northern Quebec
Manuwan SIPI Hydroelectric Power Plant
- Power: 22MW
- Locality: Mauritius