CANADA: 'Hydro Power is breaking our hearts'

Fresno Farms brutus at
Mon Jul 19 19:10:23 EST 2004

  People see "pretty" mountain reservoirs and don't think
much about it.  But building a reservoir results
in 100% habitat destruction.  Typically, reservoirs
(to maximize water volume) are built on rare "flats" and
meadow areas, which are extremely important biodiversity areas.
   Thus due to the rare topography, reservoirs are often 
located on critical migration routs (deer and such) and
(say,) fawning areas.  Deer drowning mortality rates alone
can be high enough to wipe out a deer population within
a few years.  And of course, no more timber, into the
foreseeable foture. 

A good, viable hydro project site is a rare thing,
-- many things need to come together for it to work.
Because most good hydro project sites were used
by the 1950's most new projects are the result of
government pork and such. They are economically a bad deal. 
It's good for nobody but the builders and the politicians.
But many lose, from the countless faceless taxpayers, to most 
of all; the people and life closest to the site. 

>From Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. 

 Date Fri, 16 Jul 2004 151654 -0000
 'Hydro is breaking our hearts' Communities
  fight to regain control over their lands
 DATE 2004.07.15
 DataSpecials Robert F. Kennedy Jr. CANADA's
 boreal forest, at 1.4 
 billion acres, is one of 
 the world's largest intact forests. The heart
 of Canada's boreal is found in the forests of
  eastern Manitoba and western Ontario.
 This year, the Natural Resources Defense Council 
 named the heart of the boreal among its 12 
 BioGems, concerned about threats to the boreal
 from hydropower development. Manitoba 
 Hydro is selling hydropower as environmentally
 friendly, but a recent visit to Manitoba's 
 boreal forest at the invitation of the Poplar
 River Ojibway and the Pimicikamak Cree gave 
 me plenty of fuel for skepticism about those
 Manitoba Hydro's 14 dams, 12 generating
 stations and 12,000 miles of 
 transmission lines, constructed mainly
 in the 1970s, have resulted
 in the flooding or clearing of roughly 600,000 
 acres of boreal forest.
 That is roughly 10 times the area lost annually
 to clear-cutting in all of Canada.
 New dams Manitoba Hydro has declared that the
 province's boreal rivers are "only half 
 exploited" and has identified up to 12
 potential new dams and generating stations on the 
 Nelson and Burntwood Rivers, of which two
 (Wuskwatim and Gull projects) are in the 
 planning stages.
 This is aimed in part at supplying the U.S.
 market, to which Manitoba Hydro currently 
 exports about 40 per cent of its energy.
 North of Lake Winnipeg, the Pimicikamak Cree
 are paying a heavy price for the last round 
 of development. Two of the continent's largest
 rivers have been drastically re-engineered, a 
 concrete conversion that has turned pristine
 rivers into power corridors, ancient lakes into 
 holding tanks and a sacred homeland into an
 industrial complex.
 Out on Lake Sipiwesk, downstream of Jenpeg dam,
 I saw how the rise and fall of the lake 
 chews up the banks and pulls trees into the
 water. Manitoba Hydro had just released water 
 prior to our visit, flooding occupied bird
 nests along the shores.  Entire islands disappear, 
 along with burial sites and historic camps
 occupied by the Cree for thousands of years.
 Fishing has declined dramatically according to
 Environment Canada, and populations of 
 beaver and muskrat dropped by an estimated 50
 per cent in the impacted region. Navigation has
 become hazardous due to debris in the water.
 Pimicikamak, once a healthy society with a 
 sustainable traditional economy, now has
 catastrophic unemployment, mass poverty, and one 
 of the highest suicide rates in North America.
 "Hydro is breaking our hearts," says
 Pimicikamak Chief John Miswagon.
 The company had promised clean and green
 development when Canada, Manitoba and 
 Manitoba Hydro signed 1970s agreements with
 Manitoba indigenous communities. Now the 
 Pimicikamak are fighting to force Manitoba
 Hydro to live up to its treaty commitments and 
 to restore the land and waters.
 On the east side of Lake Winnipeg, we camped in
 teepees on Poplar River traditional lands, 
 amidst beautiful boreal stands of pine and
 poplar forests. I fished the teeming waterways,
 landing walleyes, perch, whitefish and giant
 northern pike. I saw astonishing numbers of 
 duck and goose, woke up to the sound of
 songbirds, and saw bear, moose and beaver tracks 
 around the campsite.  Despite the recent good news
 about a five-year extension of 
 conservation protections, the Poplar River
 Ojibway's rivers and forests are endangered in the 
 long-term through Manitoba Hydros transmission
 line proposals, including the BiPole III 
 transmission line.
 Projects Manitoba Hydro has been selling its
 projects as the answer to combat climate 
 change due to the low greenhouse gas emissions
 of hydro-electricity, but hydro development 
 not only harms the land and the people who live
 there, it may worsen global warming. The 
 boreal forest is the world's largest
 terrestrial carbon reservoir.
 Vegetation rotting underwater emits methane, a
 gas with far higher greenhouse impacts than 
 carbon dioxide. It contributes to climate
 change to a degree that is not yet well understood.
 Both Poplar River and Pimicikamak peoples have
 called for an environmental impact 
 assessment of the long-term hydro development
 plans in Manitoba's dams, transmission 
 lines and roads. The government and Manitoba
 Hydro have done little to address the severe 
 damage from their earlier development projects
 or to make a convincing argument that such
 mistakes will not be repeated in the future.
 Both communities are fighting to gain control 
 over the decision-making about their lands.
 Poplar River, together with its neighbours, is
 trying to secure World Heritage Site 
 designation from the United Nations for their
 traditional lands.
 The Poplar River and Pimicikamak people make a
 strong case that the fate of their land and 
 water is inseparable from their culture and
 traditions. They need better information about the  
 social and environmental impacts of the
 potential hydropower development in their region 
 and they need the authority to make decisions
 about if, how and when development takes 
 place that will have an impact on their
 traditional territories.
 As I watch these communities battle to regain
 control over their land, I am reminded that 
 they are struggling for all of us. These people
 have long been stewards of resources that are
  now vital to the health of the planet.
 Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is a senior attorney at
 the Natural Resources Defense Council, an
  environmental organization headquartered in New
 York City.
   Building a reservoir results
   in 100% habitat destruction.
   Bio-recovery from a nuclear blast
   might be quicker.  Much quicker. 

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