Inukjuak dam project clears environmental assessment

Early phase of Innavik Hydro Project development getting underway

The Innavik Project is a 7.5-megawatt hydroelectric dam being built outside Inukjuak, Nunavik. (Image courtesy of Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.)

By Elaine Anselmi

Site preparation is beginning on a workers’ camp just outside Inukjuak, and heavy equipment will be arriving by barge to clear a road upriver to the future site of the Innavik Hydro Project.

And the timing is right for the renewable energy project that’s been in the works since 2007: its proponent, the Pituvik Landholding Corporation, was notified on Monday, Aug. 26, by Quebec’s Ministry of Environment that it cleared an environmental assessment.

“The only approval we’re waiting on now is for the Quebec Energy Board to approve the power purchase agreement in October,” said Pituvik President Eric Atagotaaluk. “That will pretty much make everything official.”

Construction of the 7.5-megawatt dam on the Inukjuak River will begin next year, with the hope that it will go into operation in late 2022 or early 2023.

Pituvik partnered on the project with engineering firm Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. Innavik will mark the northernmost project for Innergex, says senior advisor Francois Morin.

He says the Inukjuak River is a unique resource for a northern community in that it flows year-round, enough to maintain energy production.

“Of course, in February and March it’s less, but enough to provide the energy we expect to need. And that does the trick,” he says.

“That was our main concern when we joined the program was to ensure we had the flow all year-round.”

While ice formation clogging water intakes could be more of a challenge in the North than the south, he said it can be managed.

“It will really be a question of monitoring things more closely,” he said. “When you have ice formation you mechanically try to manage it. It’s not impossible to manage, it just takes work really to be able to monitor the situation.”

The main challenge presented by the northern environment, Morin says, is the short window in which everything has to happen—both in terms of shipping materials and construction.

For that reason, the workers’ camp will house between 100 and 120 people at a time, he said.

“Usually you have some workers that come at a certain step of the process and you have a bit of rolling people in and out,” said Morin. “Because of the shorter construction season, you need more activities at the same time.”

Right now, the goal is to have everything ready to receive workers in the spring.

While construction awaits, one aspect of the project that has started up is a fish-monitoring program.

“We had our first samples of fish this summer in order to start a profile,” said Atagotaaluk. “We’re hoping to see results by the month of November, to get an idea of existing fish and their status before the project starts, so they can see if there’s any deterioration.”

This would measure various things, such as mercury levels already present in the fish, so any increase following dam development can be recognized.

The Northern Village of Inukjuak operates on the second-largest microgrid in Quebec. Supporting 1,800 people, the Innavik Project will supply nearly all of the community’s energy, currently derived from diesel. This means avoiding about 700,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the 40 years of the project agreement, according to the project website.

By law, all electricity produced in Quebec is sold to Hydro Quebec, which then sells it to consumers at a fixed price.

With the cost of diesel production, that’s a significant expense in remote communities and, Atagotaaluk said, they can’t make a profit here.

Exactly how much Hydro Quebec will be paying for Innavik’s power won’t be confirmed until the energy board signs off on the agreement between Pituvik and Hydro Quebec in October. But, Morin says of the money Hydro Quebec currently loses with the high cost of diesel production, “now they will really save about 20 per cent of that money. It will cost them less and a good part of that money will go back to the community.”

Atagotaaluk calls it the one-third formula, which will determine how the revenue from the sale of electricity trickles back into Inukjuak: one-third to social programs, one-third to economic development, and one-third to education and training.

“We plan to follow this formula and have a positive impact within our community, which has always been our goal,” says Atagotaaluk.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Kevin on

    Hope all goes well Iam looking for work bin a heavy equipment operator 30 plus years

    • Posted by Jim on

      I agree with you, I hope Hydro will hire local Inuit not just their operators, I am 40+yrs heo 30+yrs former maintainer, was an example by ksb from my efficiencies handling & operating heavy equipment machineries etc.

      • Posted by Francois Morin on

        It is not Hydro that will build the project 😉 Innavik Hydro is a partnership between Pituvik and Innergex and yes, we want to hire as much local ressources as possible.
        There are already some jobs opening posted on the website of the project: https://www.innavikhydro.com/single-post/2019/07/31/Were-hiring , even if you don’t see a job for you yet, send your cv already, there will be a lot of hiring in the coming months and for next year. Francois Morin, Innergex Renewable Energy inc.

        • Posted by georges-henri lefebvre on

          Tu dis: we want to hire as much local ressources as possible. Est-ce que local veux dire Inukjuak seulement, ou local veux dire Nunavik?

          Merci

          • Posted by Francois Morin on

            D’abord local mais non limité au local. Les gens d’ailleurs au Nunavik sont aussi invités à poser leur candidature. Local people first, but not limited to, people from the rest of Nunavik are more than welcomed to apply.

  2. Posted by Curious on

    With this dam, will electric heating of houses allowed? This would make a huge impact on housing maintenance and operation costs.

    • Posted by Francois Morin on

      Yes, there will be enough energy produced for heating purpose. There will be also a program to convert existing heating systems to electricity, and you are right, this will have a major impact, that is the plan! Francois Morin

  3. Posted by Our land on

    Very very bad decision for our land, our animals, our waters and our future. It will make so much damage, we will loose a lot of wild life in the sea, on the land and in the air. All the animals will disappear, our food. Our only way of surviving, food and water. I do not agree with this project. Future generations will never get to know how life was before the dam. Inukjuak Won’t benefit from this, The government will. Idiots.

    • Posted by Janimarik on

      Very bad decision, the rivers plays most important role in ecosystem, our abundant renewable resources will decline cause of the damn dam. People are blinded by money with no awareness of the future negative impacts that will come up with. When the last trees are cut, when the last rivers are drained, man will realize you cannot eat money.

      • Posted by Janimarik on

        Our ancestors protected and preserved this important source and now we are about to do the opposite, and yes mister Morin, all the Nunavik people will receive huge impact on this one

        • Posted by Our land on

          110% agree with you, who of the Nunavik population was consulted for this project and who voted yes are people that don’t think of their future generations.

    • Posted by Me again on

      Well said
      Pituvik brain wash their people power of money 😢

  4. Posted by I vote no on

    in March 23,24,25 2010 referendum
    March 24 I called one of Pituvik director and ask him where they put vote ballots after 5pm. He told me they put it at Pituvik office, maybe
    that was not right because one of the employees or one of the directors change the vote no to yes. im thinking 106 people didn’t say no, maybe they were more than 106 people that voted no.
    😡

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