Hydro Quebec lines built in troubled waters - By Constance Durocher, Sarah Perrault and Lynette Gilbeau

Three important Quebec citizen’s groups, Citoyens sous haute tension, Comité aviseur de Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard and Build It Underground of Dollard-des-Ormeaux have been fighting for over three years now to protect their environment, their landscapes and their economy from the devastating impact of some Hydro Quebec high-voltage power line projects. Despite numerous petitions, demonstrations and resolutions that all point to the lack of social acceptance of these projects, Hydro Quebec continues to push forward and to ignore the clearly expressed wishes of the citizens and their elected representatives.

For example, at Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard in the Laurentians, Hydro Quebec persists in wanting to build a high-voltage line that would have a significant impact on an area with a recreation and tourism vocation that is known for its exceptionally well-preserved landscapes (120 kV Grand-Brûlé line). As it currently stands, this project violates the Charte des paysages des Laurentides (Laurentians Landscape Charter) and does not respect several sustainable development principles. In Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Hydro Quebec wants to install 150-feet-high towers only a few yards from several homes. This would have a huge impact on property values and the quality of life of residents. In both these cases, it would be possible to bury the lines over a stretch of 9 miles and 2 miles respectively. However, Hydro Quebec refuses to do so under the pretext that Quebec is not prepared to pay more to bury its power lines. And yet Hydro Quebec is involved in projects in the United States where power lines will be built underground over 60-mile and even 300 mile stretches. Are Quebec landscapes worth less than U.S. landscapes in the eyes of Hydro Quebec?

In another project that affects several regions of Quebec, including the Lanaudière region, HydroQuebec is building a 735 kilovolt (kV) power transmission line (Chamouchouane─Bout-de-l’Île project) and has clear-cut virgin forest over a 250-mile stretch. Citoyens sous haute tension is against this destructive project for environmental reasons and because it believes the power line will be used to export electricity at a loss at public expense. Moreover, the group has proven that there are solutions that are less harmful to the environment and more socially acceptable, such as installing series compensation equipment in electrical substations and reutilizing the corridors occupied by power transmission lines at the end of their service life.

We believe that Hydro Quebec, a leader in hydroelectric power generation, must make environmental protection and impact minimization, including the preservation of landscapes, a priority in its projects. This should be done through innovative initiatives that bring hope for the future of the regions and areas through which its high-voltage power lines pass. Energy that is produced to the detriment of the environment and that jeopardizes the economic future of towns and municipalities cannot be described as "green energy".

Another matter of concern to us is the lack of transparency with which Hydro Quebec carries out its projects and the difficulties we encounter in obtaining accurate information on the various economic, social and environmental issues involved. Hydro Quebec must carry out its projects with due regard for the environment, landscapes, and all citizens, whether Canadian or American. For the benefit of future generations.