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HYDRO-QUEBEC SUBMITS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY FOR GREAT WHALE PROJECT

 NEW YORK, Aug. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Hydro-Quebec today released a 5,000-page Environmental Impact Statement for the Grande-Baleine (Great Whale) hydroelectric project, a complex of three underground stations and related infrastructure it proposes to build in northern Quebec, about 700 miles north of Montreal, inshore from Hudson Bay.
 As described in the impact study, the project would have a total installed capacity of 3,210 MW and generate 16.2 TWh annually to meet Quebec's energy needs beyond the year 2000. Hydro-Quebec's impact study indicates that the Grande-Baleine complex would have impacts that are generally moderate and localized, and that can be mitigated. The project would not displace any Native communities.
 Hydro-Quebec has conducted a total of 11 years of intense studies for the draft design of the Grande-Baleine project. These studies are in addition to those it has carried out since 1973 on the northern environment. The impact study is an important step in the multiple review process that will lead to a decision on whether the project will be built or not.
 Five Independent Review Panels
 The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement signed in 1975, defines the Canadian and Quebec environmental review and approval procedures for projects initiated by any developer in the territory covered by the agreement -- which represents approximately two-thirds of the territory of the province of Quebec.
 Altogether, the Grande-Baleine project will be examined by five independent review panels. Specific procedures apply north and south of the 55th parallel, to reflect the fact that the Crees are primarily living in the region south of the 55th parallel, and the Inuit are principally to the north. Because the Grande-Baleine complex would straddle the two regions, it is subject to four environmental project assessment and review procedures. In addition, the Federal Environment Assessment and Review Process (EARP) Guidelines apply to the project. Representatives of both the Cree and Inuit communities are full participants in the review process.
 In order to harmonize the review process and make it more efficient, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in January 1992 by the Canadian and Quebec governments, and the Crees and the Inuit.
 After a series of public hearings, the committees and commissions heading the five review processes issued the guidelines applicable to the Environmental Impact Statement. The topics covered in the guidelines include project rationale and proposed design, financial analysis, and environmental impacts. The guidelines also paid particular attention to the social and cultural impacts of the project, such as land use, regional economic development, as well as the medium- and long-term effect on job creation in the Native communities, and the potential impacts on Native culture and traditional lifestyles, including dietary practices.
 Hydro-Quebec's environmental impact study will be examined by the commissions and committees, and by the administrators of the various environmental regimes applicable to the project, and a new series of public hearings will be held. After these hearings, the commissions and committees will recommend or decide if the project can be built and under which conditions.
 A Project to Meet Quebec's Energy Needs
 The Grande-Baleine complex was already foreseen, and the project itself described in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement signed in 1975 by the Canadian and Quebec governments, Hydro-Quebec, and the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi communities of northern Quebec.
 For the period 1992 to 2010, Hydro-Quebec expects Quebec's electricity demand to grow at a rate of 2.2 percent annually. To meet this increase in demand, the utility will continue to favor measures designed to improve the efficiency of its system and promote energy conservation. Taking into consideration these measures and the development of industrial markets, the forecast annual growth in demand will be reduced to 1.8 percent -- a growth comparable with that of other North American utilities.
 Hydro-Quebec foresees, that in addition to the projects already under construction, new generation capacity will be required in the first decade of the next century to meet the Quebec demand. It is to be noted that export contracts which represent approximately 6 percent of Hydro-Quebec's total sales, are not expected to vary substantially within the horizon of the construction of the project.
 The Grande-Baleine complex reflects Hydro-Quebec's continuing orientation toward hydroelectricity, based on its advantages over competing generation methods: it uses an abundant and renewable resource, produced at relatively low cost.
 A Detailed Study of the Territory
 Approximately $256 million (Canadian) was spent for technical and economic studies relating to the Grande-Baleine complex (not including interest charges). More then 85 percent of the environmental studies were conducted by a large spectrum of non-Hydro-Quebec technicians and scientists, recruits from engineering firms, research institutes and Canadian universities, using state-of-the-art technology and equipment.
 Through 20 years of extensive on-site research in northern Quebec, the utility has developed unique knowledge of the territory and the effects of hydroelectric facilities on its ecosystems. For example, the original plans of the development of the Grande-Baleine complex involved diverting part of the Nastapoka River. While this option offered clear economic advantages, Hydro-Quebec set is aside to preserve the environmental particularities of the region, including a small population of fresh water seals. Hydro-Quebec proposes a downstream diversion of the Petite Riviere de la Baleine (Little Whale River).
 Projected Economic Impact on Native Communities
 If built as proposed, the Grande-Baleine complex would generate significant, durable economic activity in the Native communities and provide much needed job opportunities. While Kuujjuarapik (450 Inuit) and Whapmagoostui (500 Crees) are the two Native communities principally impacted by the development, Hydro-Quebec estimates that the Grande- Baleine complex would inject $10.7 million (in 1992 dollars) (Canadian) annually in the economies of the Inuit villages of Kuujjuarapik, Umiujak and Inukjuak and the Cree communities of Whapmagoostui and Chisasibi. This would translate into jobs, directly and indirectly, for about 26 percent of the potential Native work force in the area.
 In keeping with provisions of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Hydro-Quebec will continue to give some preference to Native contractors for construction and maintenance work in the development area. Between 1987 and 1992, this policy led to the awarding of contracts totaling almost $190 million (Canadian) to Native businesses.
 The project proposes the construction of an access road to Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik, and the construction of a new airport nearby. This construction is subject to the approval of the Native communities involved. Past experience indicates, that the proposed road would have positive impacts by reducing the cost of food supplies and providing additional economic development opportunities such as adventure tourism, hunting and fishing. Since the impact study demonstrates that the Grande-Baleine complex would have limited impact on wildlife, the road would provide Native hunters with easier access to larger harvesting territories, while ensuring a more balanced exploitation of resources.
 Hydro-Quebec offers to negotiate agreements for the Grande-Baleine complex with the Crees and Inuit, as was done with the La Grande complex, to mitigate and compensate for residual impacts not internalized by the project. Eleven complementary agreements to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and nine particular project agreements were negotiated and signed during the construction of the La Grande complex.
 Hydro-Quebec, the second largest power company in Canada with almost 30,000 MW of installed capacity, produces 95 percent of its electricity through hydropower generation. It is one of the leading North American utilities in the area of energy conservation and environmental mitigation, and its activities extend to the development of new electrotechnologies and other energy-related research. Hydro-Quebec also buys and sells electricity through interconnections with neighboring systems in Canada and the United States, and is a member of the Northeast Power Coordinating Council.
 -0- 8/31/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: The Grande-Baleine impact study will be available for public consultation at the following locations, by mid-September:
 Massachusetts:
 --Quebec Government House, Exchange Place Building, 53 State Street,
 19th floor, Boston 02109
 --Canadian Consulate General, 3 Copley Place, Suite 400,
 Boston 02116
 --Boston Public Library, Copley Square, Boston 02116
 New York:
 --Quebec Government House, 17 West 50th Street, New York 10020-2201
 --Canadian Consulate, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, 16th floor,
 New York 10020-1175
 --New York State Library, Cultural Education Center, 6th floor,
 Albany 12230
 Maine:
 --Portland Public Library, Five Monument Square, Portland 04101
 New Hampshire:
 --Manchester City library, 405 Pine Street, Manchester 03104-6199
 Connecticut:
 --Bridgeport Public Library, 925 Broad Street, Bridgeport 06604
 Vermont:
 --Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street, Burlington 05401
 Rhode Island:
 --Providence Public Library, 225 Washington Street, Providence 02903
 Washington:
 --Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington 20001/
 /CONTACT: Dusya Broytman or Katherine Cavanaugh, in New York, 800-223-2121, or Mary Wallan, in Boston, 800-367-4442, all for Hydro- Quebec/


CO: Hydro-Quebec ST: New York IN: OIL SU:

PS-MP -- NY028 -- 7527 08/31/93 13:02 EDT
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