Park is too big, expansionist, Hydro Quebec complains

New Nunavik park threatened by hydro plans


Environmental groups want Quebec to enlarge and protect the proposed Tursujuq provincial park, located along Nunavik's eastern Hudson's Bay coast.

Several groups, including Laval University's northern studies centre and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, say that if Tursujuaq isn't enlarged and protected, the park will be at risk from hydroelectric development.

The region's environmental watchdog, the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission, held public hearings on the issue last month in Kuujjuaraapik and Umiujaq.

Environmentalists are worried because two powerful rivers, Little Whale River and the Nastapoka River, flow in and around Tursujuq, which covers 15,000 kilometres of land between Kuujjuaraapik and Umiujaq.

For the moment, Hydro Quebec has no plans to start hydro-electric projects along these rivers.

But Hydro Quebec wants to keep the door open to a future power project along the Nastapoka River, according to a submission made at the public hearings.

In it, Hydro Quebec says that due to potential value of hydroelectric power in and around the park, Tursujuaq shouldn't be enlarged because if it's larger it could get in the way of future hydroelectric projects.

Hydro Quebec also wants to be able to run power lines, access routes and roads through a corridor in the park, if necessary.

Hydro Quebec doesn't want Tursujuq to be enlarged because if it's larger, it could get in the way of future hydroelectric plans.

To defend its position, Hydro Quebec notes that a goal of Quebec's 2002 Sanarrutik social and economic development agreement with Makivik Corp. and the Kativik Regional Government was to develop hydroelectric power in the region.

The Nastapoka River, whose development is mentioned in the Sanarrutik deal, could produce up to 1,000 megawatts of power, enough to meet the daily needs of about 250,000 homes.

If a dam is eventually built along the Nastapoka River, Hydro Quebec said power lines, access routes and roads may have to take a huge detour if they're not allowed to cross the park.

"The costs incurred would significantly boost the cost of projects developing the hydroelectric potential," said Hydro Quebec's brief.

However, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (Quebec chapter), Nature Quebec, and the Canadian Boreal Initiative want to add more than 10,000 sq. km. to Tursujuq's size so the entire Nastapoka River watershed will be included within the park boundaries.

The preliminary park master plan now only includes part of the Nastapoka River's headwaters within the park boundaries.

More protection is needed, argue these groups, because Nastapoka River holds a population of rare landlocked salmon, the only such salmon to be found on eastern Hudson Bay.

As well belugas, an endangered species, gather in the river's estuary during the summer.

Environmental groups also want the entire chain of inland lakes, home to an endangered population of fresh water seals, to be included within Tursujuq's boundaries.

The seals are found 150 km inland in the Lacs des Loups Marins or seal lakes region. They're believed to be the only harbour seals in the world that live year-round in fresh water.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society suggests Quebec should change its law on parks so that all lands set aside for a provincial park remain completely protected from development in the period leading up to its creation.

After Quebec's environment department and the environmental commission comment on information submitted at the public hearings, the park project will go to Quebec's cabinet for final approval.

Tursujuq will be Nunavik's third provincial park.

Last November, Charest officially opened the Pingualuit provincial park near Kangiqsujuaq. Quebec is expected to announce the creation of Kuururjuaq provincial park in the Torngat Mountains soon.

An administrative body within the KRG's renewable resources department, called the Nunavik parks section, looks after the provincial parks network, which will eventually employ 40 people throughout the region.

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