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Montréal, May 21, 2013

The Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project, a prime example of how to incorporate environmental constraints

The result of numerous consultations with stakeholders, the Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project included the construction of Eastmain-1-A and Sarcelle powerhouses, as well as the partial diversion of the Rivière Rupert. In this video, France Brûlé, Manager – Environmental Protection at the Société d’énergie de la Baie-James, a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec, describes measures included in the project to preserve the environment and take into account the local community's concerns.

The partial diversion of the Rivière Rupert was designed to channel water to the two new powerhouses, Eastmain-1-A and Sarcelle, and to two other generating stations further downstream, which are part of the La Grande complex. The river is mainly used by the Crees, both in winter and summer, although it is also occasionally used by non-Aboriginals in the summer months for recreational purposes.

In total, eight weirs were built on the Rupert to maintain the water level upstream and thus prevent bank erosion and preserve riparian habitats. The flow of the river is also controlled to vary from one season to the next: it is increased for spring flood, slightly decreased in the summer, increased again for fall flood, and then reduced in the winter. These measures preserve spawning grounds and fish habitats and allow the Crees to continue using the river as they always have, both for fishing and hunting. 

Hydro-Québec rehabilitated sites, enhanced the area affected by the project, preserved the fishing activities and improved access to the area. The company also seeded 400 hectares to support goose hunting, and built two pools and boardwalks at Smokey Hill Rapids for traditional Cree cisco fishing.

All fish species were preserved through the development of spawning grounds and fish passes, which allow fish to reproduce and to pass through the weirs in both directions (upstream and downstream).

As a result of these measures, a live ecosystem has been maintained in the section of the river beyond the diversion point. In its 12th global inventory of electricity generation from renewable sources, Observ’ER cited the Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project as “a prime example of how to incorporate environmental constraints.” Observ’ER is a world reference in the fields of renewable energy and sustainable development.

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