Rupert River Dam Opposition


Hydro-Qubec’s primary purpose for damming and diverting the Rupert River – the last undammed major river in Northern Quebec – and creating a massive reservoir equivalent in size to flooding two-thirds of Montreal, or half of New York or New Orleans, is to generate new power capacity to sell to the northeastern United States.


U.S. and international environmental groups opposed to the project include:


  • Natural Resources Defense Council -www.nrdc.org
  • International Rivers Network -www.irn.org
  • Friends of the Earth U.S. -www.foe.org
  • Sierra Club Northeast Regional Conservation Committee -www.sierraclub.org/rcc/northeast
  • The Indigenous Environmental Network -www.ienearth.org
  • Project Laundry List -www.laundrylist.org
  • The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater -www.clearwater.org
  • New York Public Interest Research Group -www.NYPIRG.org
  • NY City Friends of Clearwater -http://nycfriendsofclearwater.org
  • PROTECT -PROTECT@pobox.com
  • Institute for Social Ecology, Vermont -www.social-ecology.org
  • Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society in Oneonta, NY -www.doas.us
  • The Energy Justice Network -www.energyjustice.org
  • Wittenberg Center for Alternative Resources -www.wittenbergcenter.org
  • Seedcorn -www.seedcorn.org
  • Citizens Environmental Coalition -www.cectoxic.org
  • Solidarity Committee of the Capital District, N.Y. State -www.jflan.net/solidarity
  • Action PA -www.actionpa.org


Many of these groups were involved in the successful cancellation of Hydro-Qubec’s Great Whale hydroelectric mega-project in 1992 when they convinced then-Governor Mario Cuomo of New York to back out of the state’s $17 billion contract with Hydro-Quebec.


Chief Josie Jimiken of Nemaska, one of the three Cree communities most impacted by the project said, “There is no need to harm the river or the wilderness – Hydro-Quebec has surplus electrical generating capacity already and there are acceptable alternatives to this plan including many wind energy proposals in the James Bay Cree territory.


“We welcome the support of American and international environmental groups in raising awareness that the terrible environmental consequences of damming the Rupert River will be felt far beyond our few communities,” said Chief Jimiken.



The recently launched http://www.savetherupert.org web site provides the real story behind this destructive hydro project, the danger to the lives of the Cree and shows how polluting and environmentally damaging hydro power is.


“We need to focus first on energy efficiency, repowering our old plants and clean distributed generation with our energy choices,” said Ashok Gupta, Air and Energy Program Director of Natural Resources Defense Council. “If renewing long-term energy contracts with Hydro-Qubec to supply consumers in northeast U.S. means ruining more Canadian rivers, flooding more boreal forest and creating health hazards for a number of Cree Indian communities, we have an obligation to emphatically say ‘No’.”


Since the project was agreed to by the Grand Council of the Crees in 2002 as part of an omnibus agreement between the Cree, Government of Quebec and Hydro-Qubec called the Paix des Braves, concerns over greater environmental and health impacts, such as mercury contamination equal to that of coal fired power plants, together with increased project costs and reduced power requirements and forecasts by Hydro-Quebec, have cast doubt on the need for the project.
Hydro-Qubec concealed a $4.5 billion wind energy alternative proposed by Siemens, from commissioners during environmental impact assessment (EIA) hearings in 2006, despite being required to bring forward all known alternatives.


The EIA panel approved the project in a split vote, solely on the basis of economic need being greater than environmental impact, without knowledge of the alternatives. The dissenting commissioner said the environmental consequences were too great to allow the project to proceed.


“Hydro-Qubec travels to dam industry conferences around the world boasting that it no longer imposes its projects against the will of local people. Yet it is bulldozing through its destruction of the Rupert River despite the strenuous opposition of the directly affected Cree communities,” said Patrick McCully, Executive Director of International Rivers Network.


Friends of the Earth U.S. President Dr. Brent Blackwelder said his organization “strongly objects” to the Hydro-Qubec power project and the damage being done to the Rupert River and the three Cree communities. “Hydro-Qubec’s latest scheme would disrespect, disrupt, and damage the indigenous Cree people for the purpose of supplying the United States with electricity and is saying to hell with the social and environmental consequences,” said Dr. Blackwelder.


“Well-kept Secret”


“The Rupert River diversion has been a well-kept secret in the United States – now the secret is out and we agree that this is an environmental and social disaster,” said Andy Mason, Conservation Chair of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society.


“This massive, non-sustainable energy project has been cloaked in secrecy and preliminary work has started with almost no public scrutiny,” said Doris Delaney of PROTECT, adding that it is never too late to re-examine the Rupert diversion. “We seek a construction moratorium, to allow time for impartial and complete review of the project’s environmental and social impacts, and of the very attractive wind power alternative, which Hydro-Quebec appears to have deliberately concealed,” said Delaney.


“Hydro-Quebec’s latest plan for flooding the Rupert River would drown out the way of life and health of the Cree and ruin the ecosystem,” said Jason K. Babbie, Senior Environmental Policy Analyst for New York Public Interest Research Group. “This technology was rejected during New York’s renewable energy standard proceeding and would not be welcome here, so we must reject the power from this type of facility outside our borders.”


The Sierra Club Northeast Regional Conservation Committee (NERC) representing 11 Sierra Club chapters across the Northeastern U.S. and Canada does “not support the construction of hydro electric projects which impose adverse environmental and social impacts,” said Annie Wilson, Chair of the Energy Committee for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Hydro-Qubec has associated our electricity needs with the destruction of the Rupert River.”


On average, 71% of the river’s annual flow will be diverted by 2009 to new reservoirs flooding 135 square miles of land, leaving a trickle of the original flow. The water will be funneled to Hydro-Qubec’s La Grande hydropower system further north on James Bay.


“Diverting the Rupert River for electrical power generation to be exported to the United States creates dirty energy tainted with human rights abuses against our aboriginal peoples,’ said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network. “This is another environmental and economic injustice being perpetrated against the Cree communities who have the most to lose.”


September 14 Rally in Montreal


The first of a series of international awareness activities is scheduled to take place on September 14, with a large clothesline demonstration outside Hydro-Qubec’s headquarters in Montreal Canada.


The event will feature a 400-foot-long protest clothesline “because we want to hang Hydro-Qubec ‘s destructive, dirty energy project out to dry,” said Alexander Lee, Executive Director of Project Laundry List, based in New Hampshire, which is sponsoring the event, together with the Quebec Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada and Quebec-based environmental groups Rupert Reverence and Rivers Foundation which fought the Hydro-Qubec project for more than six years.
“We need to focus more on reducing energy consumption here in the U.S. so that Hydro-Qubec has no excuse to destroy this jewel of the James Bay region and violate traditional Cree culture,” said Lee.


Voices of Opposition to the Rupert River Diversion


“While Clearwater supports the construction of certain low impact hydroelectric projects as a form of clean renewable energy, we strongly oppose the massive diversion project proposed for the Rupert, as we opposed the Great Whale Project 13 years ago.”
- Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.


“Hydro-Quebec should abandon its plans to divert and destroy the Rupert River. The environmental impacts are just not acceptable and viable alternatives are available.”
-Tom Ellis, Co-Chair, Citizens Environmental Coalition, Albany, N.Y.


“Hydro-Qubec seems up to its old tricks again, and again it spells disaster, both for the environment and human rights. Clean energy advocates in Vermont and across New England weren’t fooled by Hydro-Qubec 15 years ago, and we’re not fooled by their misguided plans to flood yet another vital northern river today.”
- Brian Tokar, Institute for Social Ecology, Plainfield, Vermont, USA


“Hydro-Quebec is attempting to re-plumb the last great untouched wilderness in the northeastern part of North America. They have failed to adequately address the very serious problem of large-scale methyl-mercury pollution in an otherwise pristine fresh water area.”
- Margaret Weitzman, Seedcorn


“It makes no sense to turn an ancient, wild river into a gigantic gutter. The wind power alternative would produce just as much electricity for the same or less cost and create sustainable jobs in the process. The best site in North America for wind power development happens to be exactly where they want to dam the Rupert!”
- John Funiciello, Chairman, Solidarity Committee, Capital District in New York State.


“Hydro-Qubec is given a free hand to monitor the impacts of its own project. There needs to be independent monitoring of the Rupert project. We just don’t believe Hydro-Qubec will modify the project if the impacts become too severe.”
- Daniel Green, Sierra Club of Canada


“Hydro-Quebec always compares its projects to coal-fired power stations instead of comparing to green energy because Hydro-Quebec prefers to do what they always do – build dams regardless of the impacts. Hydro-Qubec ‘s massive new reservoir will flood a large region of boreal forest and northern wilderness. All this destruction is more unjustified than ever
- Nicolas Boisclair, Rupert Reverence


“Hydro-Qubec is about to reduce by half and dry out three quarters of one of the last big untouched rivers of the planet by diverting the Rupert River,” “They even hid a great wind-power project from the public because they never wanted to consider any other options.”
- Jean-Franois Blain, Rivers Foundation


FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit http://www.savetherupert.org or CONTACT:


In the U.S.


  • Alexander Lee Project Laundry List (603) 219-1195 alee@laundrylist.org
  • Doris Delaney PROTECT (215) 364-3460 protectjb@yahoo.com
  • Patrick McCully International Rivers Network (510) 848 1155 x 329
  • patrick@irn.org
  • Ashok Gupta Natural Resources Defense Council (212) 727-4408 nrdcaction@nrdc.org
  • Dr. Brent Blackwelder Friends of the Earth U.S. (877) 843-8687 bblackwelder@foe.org
  • Jason K. Babbie NYPIRG (212) 349-6460 jkb@beethoven.nypirg.org
  • Annie Wilson or Theresa Cassiack Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter (518) 426-9144 theresa.cassiack@sierraclub.org
  • Tom Goldtooth Indigenous Environmental Network (218) 751-4967 ien@igc.org
  • Brian Tokar Institute for Social Ecology (802) 229 0087 briant@pshift.com
  • Tom Ellis Citizens Environmental Coalition (518) 453-8874 pei1996@verizon.net
  • Manna Jo Greene Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (845) 454-7673 x 113 mannajo@clearwater.org
  • Andy Mason Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society (607) 652-2162 andymason@earthling.net
  • Carl Schwartz NY City Friends of Clearwater a.attheballgame@verizon.net
  • Margaret Weitzman Seedcorn (315) 265-4619 seedcorn@northnet.org
  • John Funiciello Solidarity Committee, Capital District in New York State inunion2000@yahoo.com
  • Betsy Stang Wittenberg Center for Alternative Resources bebird@aol.com


In Canada


  • Nicolas Boisclair Rupert Reverence (514)267-3140 nicboislcair@yahoo.ca
  • ·Michel Gauthier Fondation Rivieres (514)272-2666 fondationrivereres@videotron.ca
  • Daniel Green Sierra Club of Canada (514 844-5477 greentox@total.net
  • Stuart McCarthy or David Manley Bluesky Strategy Group (for Chiefs Josie Jimiken and Abraham Rupert); (613)241-3512 x 229
  • or (613)241-3512 x 230; stuart@blueskystrategygroup.com or david@blueskystrategygroup.com

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