The project to build two mini hydroelectric power stations on the Kipawa River is dividing the population of Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
On July 21, the MRC de Témiscamingue and three Aboriginal communities in Hydro-Québec will submit a proposal to build two mini-hydroelectric power plants on the Kipawa. It is this wild river that appears on the $10 bill to illustrate a Canadian Shield natural site.
Thanks to investments of 200 million US dollars, a total of 42 megawatts (MW) will be produced, which can supply electricity to 15,000 households. But the project called Onimiki (Thunder) splits the population.
There are supporters: “It’s a good project that allows us to ensure energy autonomy while generating significant economic benefits for the region,” says MRC Prefect Claire Bolduc, who promotes the partnership with Wolf’s Anishinabeg communities Lake highlights and Kebaowek. The Innu community Lac-Saint-Jean is also a business partner.
Then there are the critics: “The citizens have not been consulted, despite the organizers’ repeated promises,” says Louis Riopel, French teacher at Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue and spokesman for the Kipawa River Festival, which brought together a hundred white water enthusiasts last weekend.
The project involves diverting part of the water to the source of the river.
Mr. Riopel therefore fears that this intervention will permanently and irrevocably alter the ecosystem in a place where the Opemican National Park has only just been created.
Studies show that lake trout spawning, for example, could be affected by fluctuations in water levels. Resort issues are also addressed: the water receding will no doubt affect watersports enthusiasts.
The Abitibi-Témiscamingue Regional Environment Council, the Témiscamingue Watershed Organization and the Association of Residents of Lake Tee de Du Moulin expressed their concerns in a letter sent to the MRC on December 14.
Without formally opposing Ominiki, these organizations claim that despite repeated requests, several questions remained unanswered.
Blame the Pandemic
Mme Bolduc asserts that the time for the consultation has expired, particularly because of the pandemic. After the project is submitted, hearings will take place to meet the deadline. And the studies are also carried out in accordance with the applicable environmental standards.
Alain Saladzius, President of the Rivières Foundation, regrets that we do not know the impact of this project on the ecosystem as the flow problems have not been presented. His organization “supports groups asking to be informed”.
Four mini power plants follow
After abandoning hydropower projects below 50 MW under Pauline Marois, Hydro-Québec has resumed the program of mini power plants by private developers. The state body undertakes to purchase the electricity produced. Here are the four projects that will be built over the next few years.
FOUR MILE FALLS HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
- Power: 5.5MW
- Region: North Shore
SIX MILLES FALLS HYDRO POWER STATION
- Power: 13.2 MW
- Region: North Shore
- Power: 7.25 MW
- Region: Northern Quebec
MANOUANE SIPI HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
- Power: 22 MW
- Region: Mauritius