The advantages and disadvantages of the large hydroelectric project in James Bay.

By: Alex Wiley


Introduction:

The James Bay Hydroelectric Project, a very controversial issue in the late 19th century. In 1971, the Quebec Government and Hydro-Quebec proposed to build a series of dams on the East coast of James Bay. 9 rivers were to be dammed and diverted including GreatWhale, Nottaway, Rupert, La Grand and Eastmain Rivers. The project was so large that it took phases; in total, costing approximately $20.7 billion. The project was highly controversial because even though it would make more than half of Quebec’s hydroelectric power, it would ruin a huge area of fragile wildlife the size of Belgium. Another concern was that the unique traditions and culture of the Cree (of whom the land is home to) would be ruined because of environmental damage and urbanization (Marsh, May 17). But, people argued the enormous profit that would be brought in from sales with the states and job opportunities. Would people rather save the land or gain large profits?








dhbjdabjdhsvkhvjsdv This video is a documentary proposal about the James Bay Project and its effects (www.youtube.com, June 13).



What is Hydroelectric Power?

Hydroelectric power is produced using the force from falling water. It is usually produced by a dam being placed in a river, which creates a reservoir or artificial lake at the upper end of the dam. As water goes through the dam the force created from the falling water turns a large turbine. This turbine is connected to a generator that converts the energy to electricity. Hydroelectric power is very reliable and can be one of the cleanest ways of producing energy (www.tvakids.com, June 11).


The Overall Issue and Its Relation to Canada:

The James Bay Hydroelectric Project has raised lots of controversy over its environmental, social, economic, and political effects on Canada. The controversy is on whether to build a series of 9 dams on rivers on the east coast of James Bay. People are discussing all the pros and cons before going ahead with such a large project. If the project is taken forward there will a huge profit for Hydro-Quebec and the government. At least 10% of the profit was also to be traded with the United States. But, the environment and the relationship with aboriginals in the area are at stake. Going forward with the project will also cause flooding and destruction of vast untouched wildlife (Marsh, May 17). It will also ruin the land tha

dam1.jpg
La Grande-1 dam and spillway (www.hydroquebec.com, June 12).

t the aboriginal communities use to practice their traditions and culture. The project faces Canada with a huge decision and many sacrifices to make.


Stakeholders:

There are many different groups involved in the James Bay Hydroelectric Project with strong opinions. The two major
stakeholders are the aboriginals in the area and the Quebec Government and Hydro-Quebec. The aboriginals in the area are strongly against the project because it will ruin the land that they survive off of and use to practice traditions. Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec Government are in favour of the project because it will produce more than half of their hydroelectric power and produce a large profit. Other stakeholders are environmentalists and the upper state governments. The environmentalists are not in favour of the project because it will ruin a huge area of wildlife that cannot be replaced. The governments of the upper states were all in favour of the project in the beginning but as it progressed New York Governor, Mario Luomo cancelled his contract. He did this because he realized the environmental damage and found other sources to help protect the land (Marsh, May 17).


Advantages and Disadvantages:


prosandcons.jpg






The Four Spheres of Issue Analysis:

dam2.jpg
The 3rd La Grande generating station with a dam, switchyard, and spillway (www.hyrdoquebec.com, June 12).

Economic:

The economic aspect of the project is obviously the cost of building the dams as well as profits, jobs and affects on the citizen’s expenses. The first phase of the project will cost $13.7billion alone while the second phase will cost $17billion. The initial expenses will slowly be gained back through increases in taxes and profits but will leave Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec Government in debt for a significant period of time. Secondly, the project will provide some jobs for the local communities. Along with the jobs, there will be more expenses for the locals because of the need to import more items. Since the land that was originally used to get food is ruined the community will have to import more items. Importing goods is very expensive since the communities are so secluded meaning high grocery bills. Raised taxes to pay for the project will also effect a much larger population. There are many economic consequences associated with the James Bay Hydroelectric Project.

Environmental:

La Grande-2 otherwise known as the Robert-Bourassa dam with its large reservoir and spillway. This dam can also be known as the giant staircase (www.hydroquebec.com, June 12).
The James Bay project is a highly controversial environmental issue. In order to produce the proposed amount of energy 9 rivers had to be dammed, rivers had to be diverted, floods and fires destroyed vast areas of fragile wildlife. Large levels of mercury from decaying vegetation was released into the environment, contaminating fish that were then consumed by the local Cree and killing 10 000 caribou (Marsh, May 17). Now is hydroelectricity truly an environmentally friendly renewable resource to produce electricity from?
dam3.png
La Grande-2 otherwise known as the Robert-Bourassa dam with its large reservoir and spillway. This damn can also be known as the giant staircase (ww.hydroquebec.com, June 12)

Social:

Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec Government took many risks when proposing the James Bay project. They sacrificed they’re relationship with the large Aboriginal population in the area, as they knew the environmental consequences on the land where they lived. They also pressured the Aboriginals into signing agreement to allow the project to move forward. The Aboriginal people then realized what they had given up and fought back for fishing and hunting rights, all though they did receive many things from the case there were still many who weren’t satisfied (Inwood, May 20).
Along with the upset aboriginals there were many unique traditions were lost. This is because of two reasons, one being the destruction of the land used to practice these ways as well as the introduction to the western lifestyle. An article from The Grand Council of the Crees said, “The Eastmain chief, Ted Moses, himself son of an elderly hunter, said that probably we were now seeing the last generation of people who would make their living from hunting in the old way,” (www.gcc.ca, May 20).The exposures to the different lifestyle also lead to many issues in the communities like alcoholism (Inwood, May 20). The James Bay project had a major effect on the large Cree and Inuit communities in the James Bay area.

Political:

The land claims were the major political aspects. After many issues on who the land belonged to, the aboriginal land claim was sold to the Quebec Government for $225 million. In return the Aboriginals received fishing and hunting rights to the land (Marsh, May 17). The selling and negotiations impacted many social aspects and consequences of the project. The political aspects were a very long process and took lots of negotiations.


Conclusion:

My opinion on the project is that it should’ve not been proceeded with. Its environmental effects were (or are) too severe, especially when hydroelectricity is supposed to be a “green” energy source. It ruined an enormous area of vast wildlife, which Canada is known for. There was also a huge impact on the large Aboriginal population in the area. Not only were they’re unique traditions diminished but there were many economic burdens placed on them. They are indigenous to the land and deserve to be able to practice they’re ways in an undisturbed area. In my opinion the cons outweighed the pros in The James Bay Hydroelectric Project and the project shouldn’t have been continued.







Works Cited
"CBC Digital Archives - The James Bay Project and the Cree - Cree upset by Quebec's James Bay mega-project." CBC.ca - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/native-issues/james-bay-project-and-the-cree/cree-upset-by-quebecs-mega-project.html>.
Hornig, James. "Social and Environmental Impacts of the James Bay Hydroelectric Project." MQUP. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2012. <http://mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=1300>.
"Hydro-Quebec Project." James Bay Road Website - Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www.jamesbayroad.com/hydro/index.html>.
"Hydroelectric generating stations | Hydro-Québec Production." Hydro-Québec. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2012. <http://www.hydroquebec.com/generation/centrale-hydroelectrique.html>.
Inwood, Richard. "CBC Digital Archives - The James Bay Project and the Cree - James Bay Project: Cree surrender land in historic agreement." CBC.ca - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/native-issues/james-bay-project-and-the-cree/cree-surrender-land-in-historic-agreement.html>.
Marsh, James. "James Bay Project - The Canadian Encyclopedia." The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2012. <http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/james-bay-project#ArticleContents>.
"TVA Kids: Fossil Power." TVA Kids: Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2012. <http://www.tvakids.com/electricity/hydro.htm>.
"The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) > Cree Regional Authority > Environment > Social Impact on the Crees of James Bay Project." The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) > Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.gcc.ca/archive/article.php?id=38>.
"The James Bay Project: Documentary Proposal - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nJ5NpHWqWshttp:>.


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