CANADA: 'Hydro Power is breaking our hearts'
brutus at u.com
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
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
(WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
PUBLICATION WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
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
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
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
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
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
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
Building a reservoir results
in 100% habitat destruction.
Bio-recovery from a nuclear blast
might be quicker. Much quicker.
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