Power project sparks dispute

Rob Antle
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N.L. unhappy with Quebec over Romaine hydro plan

Quebec's plans to produce hydroelectric power on the Romaine river have revived a long-standing border dispute and sparked environmental concerns in Labrador.

Documents being considered as part of the Romaine review process "contain glaring errors of fact that are contemptuous of the Constitution of Canada," the Newfoundland and Labrador government said in a Nov. 27, 2008, submission to the joint panel examining the hydro proposal.

Quebec's plans to produce hydroelectric power on the Romaine river have revived a long-standing border dispute and sparked environmental concerns in Labrador.

Documents being considered as part of the Romaine review process "contain glaring errors of fact that are contemptuous of the Constitution of Canada," the Newfoundland and Labrador government said in a Nov. 27, 2008, submission to the joint panel examining the hydro proposal.

That environmental review panel's report is expected to be complete by the end of February. It will be made public within a maximum of 60 days after that.

That could clear the way for construction of the 1,550-MW hydro project to begin this summer.

Newfoundland and Labrador's submission to the review panel contrasts with public statements made by the Williams administration in 2006, suggesting there was no issue with the Labrador border and no cause for alarm about Quebec's hydro plans.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government said in the submission that it is "deeply concerned" about not being consulted by Hydro-Quebec, the Government of Quebec or the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) on the Romaine review.

The proponent "explicitly refused" to meet with government officials, the submission charged.

Hydro-Quebec's environmental impact statement is "unacceptably deficient in a number of key areas," the province noted.

Those include concerns about caribou conservation, the risk of flash flooding, the potential for flooding on possible archaeological sites, and the impact of increased mercury levels on fish, wildlife and people in Labrador.

"Newfoundland and Labrador cannot understand the justification for limiting the study area to Quebec," the province's submission says.

Newfoundland and Labrador said the border between the two provinces is "invalidly depicted," to include parts of Labrador not given to Quebec under the 1927 Privy Council boundary decision.

According to Newfoundland and Labrador's submission, that means "the headwaters and entire watersheds of the Romaine and the four other major Quebec North Shore rivers appear, incorrectly, to be within Quebec."

"This matter must be rectified," the provincial submission noted.

Additionally, Quebec maps show a maritime boundary drawn through the Strait of Belle Isle - a boundary Newfoundland and Labrador says doesn't exist.

In 2006, Premier Danny Williams chided the media for highlighting the border dispute as a problem.

"I don't even understand why it's being raised ... the boundary is not an issue for us," Williams told The Telegram in May 2006. "Every so often it will come up on a Quebec map showing the border being wrong, but from our perspective it's not a concern.

"I wouldn't even raise it - by just raising it, with all due respect, even doing articles on it just acknowledges maybe there is an issue here, in the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

In the fall of 2006, Williams suggested Quebec was trying to obstruct Newfoundland and Labrador's access to potential energy markets by moving forward with the projects such as the Romaine.

The premier said Quebec was too politically volatile for Canada to rely on for energy.

The provincial government did not publicize its submission to the Quebec-Ottawa environmental review panel. The document is on the panel's website.

Newfoundland and Labrador's comments were received by the committee which will make recommendations, said Claude-Eric Gagne, press secretary in Quebec's natural resources department.

The Quebec government will decide what to do with those recommendations, he added.

Officials with the Newfoundland and Labrador government did not respond to Telegram inquiries before deadline.

The infrastructure magazine, ReNew Canada, recently put the Romaine project at No. 1 on a list of the Top 100 projects planned for 2009.

Quebec officials value the Romaine project at between $6.5 billion and $8 billion.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Hydro-Quebec, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Privy Council The Telegram

Geographic location: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Romaine river Quebec North Shore Canada Ottawa

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Jeff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Info on the project (and presumably, the submissions in question - mostly in French only) is available here:

    http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/Viewer_e.cfm?CEAR_ID=2613

    And here:

    http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/mandats/La%20Romaine/index.htm

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Bring what to a head?

  • Lloyd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the project, including the flooded areas contained within the actual constitutional boundaries of Quebec (not those maps that often excite people)?
    I for one would rather see excited conversation from everyone 'out there' about how there are no plans to include most of Labrador in electricity and other benefits coming from Nfld's plans for the 'Lower Churchill'.
    W. McLean, we might also add to the 'maps' issue, all those present day references to 'across the province from St.John's to Port Aux Basques' or the references to 'Island' province....

  • Donald
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Looks like our provincial government has at last recognized that there is a problem in the border region. Funny thing is, countless citizens of NL have been saying this for a long time now. But NO , said our government, rest assured, there is nothing to be concerned about, here . Now it's a question of whether or not it's too late to do anything about it.

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Frustrated from Newfoundland, why is the Romaine project reason to separate?

    And does the fact that ''we can't even get the wheels turning'' on the so-called Lower Churchill project have anything to do with the ''go-it alone'' approach that involves cash funding and loan guarantees from another order of government, and imaginary sales of power via imaginary transmission lines to up to five other provinces and the U.S.?

  • Fred W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Labrador should be a separate territory and run it's own affairs.

    Then we can negotiate with Quebec or Newfoundland.

  • Max
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Jeff - thanks for the links but as usual practically everything is in French only!! Something stinks here and the NL Government better get on it.

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    The powers that be in Ottawa and Quebec would love these posts. YES....Its called, Divide and Conquor!
    Wherever you go on NFLD Island or Labrador you hear people say, we want more or better roads, better health care, more wages or more employment.
    Instead of fighting, maybe we should be coming up with ideas to achieve a common goal.
    I'm sure its not easy managing a province like NL with its long coastline and isolated areas. Then there is the age old problem of outsiders getting more from our resources than our own people do. When a strong leader comes along and says, No more give aways some want to kick him out. We all know what federal policies and actions have done to NL. Focus on the root of the problem, if you want real change!

  • exactly as
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    This was the type of blackmail concession in negotiations Quebec wanted NL to bow to in order to get a corridor through for energy delivery; Give up the rights to several waterways in the south of Labrador which emptied into the St. Lawrence for permission to transmit electrical energy to points in the United States, etc.. Now they're at it again and Danny better get off his duff or there will be a repeat of a border dispute... Time to pull the switch in Churchill until the Quebec government agrees to the boundary set by the Privy Council of 1927....If they don't, start sending ALL that electricity to Labrador and Newfoundland as they want to do with the lower Churchill....now's the golden opportunity! Send it now!!!

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Newfoundland politicians are so lucky. They got it made. There are so many ways to divert people from real issues here. Make them think you are working for them. There is Quebec. There is the seal hunt. There is Ottawa. All the bogey men. Other politicians must be envious of Newfoundland politicians. Poor old George Bush and Hitler had to start wars to get this type of diversion on the go. Now all the call in people will bemoan evil Quebec for the next few weeks before the seal hunt circus starts up. And while we all blather about Quebec and pie in the sky projects, our economy and society can go to blazes. I should have been a politician.

  • SoldYa Boy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    This is war b'ys. It's time to mass the troops on the border, once they're back from Alberta.

  • randy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Does anyone really believe the Harper government or any government would back nl agains't Quebec.Think again folks.We don't have many friends left in federal politics,thanks to Danny

  • ron
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Its time to bring this to a head, Ottawa dosn't want to do anything againist Quebec,and will not let Nfld transport electricty through its lands.So we should take it by force or put pressure on Ottawa.You think if the shoe was on the other foot that Quebec would stand for this ?like the Hydro going on this long .What will they do when that deal runs out?? i bet ya they'll come up with some scheme to keep it with Ottawa's help.

  • Frustrated
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    How come I have never heard of this before and out of nowhere it becomes a project listed as number 1 of the top 100 projects for 2009? Why can't we even getting the wheels slowly rolling for Lower Churchill which has been on the books for eternity!

    Time to separate! There I said it! Time to hold our own referendum! Lets get out of this politically defunct / corrupt country! I am sure that we can strike a deal with the US regarding the development of our resources (both offshore and land based) and they woln't worry about getting Ottawa's permission to put a line through Quebec!

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    The government of NL needs to be careful when dealing with Quebec. Past deals prove that. Then with the Federal Government pandering to Quebec and its concerns, they need to bo extra careful and not allow the past to repeat itself!

  • newfie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    hopefully some of our MP's will be there to help us on this matter. i wouldn't count on russell here to look after our best interests.

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    If you can change the constitutional boundary merely by publishing maps that contradict that boundary, then what are the implications of all of those maps of ''the province'', that for decades omitted Labrador altogether?

  • Manny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    W McLean from ON writes: Frustrated from Newfoundland, why is the Romaine project reason to separate?

    And does the fact that ''we can't even get the wheels turning'' on the so-called Lower Churchill project have anything to do with the ''go-it alone'' approach that involves cash funding and loan guarantees from another order of government, and imaginary sales of power via imaginary transmission lines to up to five other provinces and the U.S.?

    W Mclean...Whose side are you on, Ottawa's?

  • Jeff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Info on the project (and presumably, the submissions in question - mostly in French only) is available here:

    http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/Viewer_e.cfm?CEAR_ID=2613

    And here:

    http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/mandats/La%20Romaine/index.htm

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Bring what to a head?

  • Donald
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Looks like our provincial government has at last recognized that there is a problem in the border region. Funny thing is, countless citizens of NL have been saying this for a long time now. But NO , said our government, rest assured, there is nothing to be concerned about, here . Now it's a question of whether or not it's too late to do anything about it.

  • Lloyd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the project, including the flooded areas contained within the actual constitutional boundaries of Quebec (not those maps that often excite people)?
    I for one would rather see excited conversation from everyone 'out there' about how there are no plans to include most of Labrador in electricity and other benefits coming from Nfld's plans for the 'Lower Churchill'.
    W. McLean, we might also add to the 'maps' issue, all those present day references to 'across the province from St.John's to Port Aux Basques' or the references to 'Island' province....

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Frustrated from Newfoundland, why is the Romaine project reason to separate?

    And does the fact that ''we can't even get the wheels turning'' on the so-called Lower Churchill project have anything to do with the ''go-it alone'' approach that involves cash funding and loan guarantees from another order of government, and imaginary sales of power via imaginary transmission lines to up to five other provinces and the U.S.?

  • Fred W
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Labrador should be a separate territory and run it's own affairs.

    Then we can negotiate with Quebec or Newfoundland.

  • Max
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Jeff - thanks for the links but as usual practically everything is in French only!! Something stinks here and the NL Government better get on it.

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    The powers that be in Ottawa and Quebec would love these posts. YES....Its called, Divide and Conquor!
    Wherever you go on NFLD Island or Labrador you hear people say, we want more or better roads, better health care, more wages or more employment.
    Instead of fighting, maybe we should be coming up with ideas to achieve a common goal.
    I'm sure its not easy managing a province like NL with its long coastline and isolated areas. Then there is the age old problem of outsiders getting more from our resources than our own people do. When a strong leader comes along and says, No more give aways some want to kick him out. We all know what federal policies and actions have done to NL. Focus on the root of the problem, if you want real change!

  • exactly as
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    This was the type of blackmail concession in negotiations Quebec wanted NL to bow to in order to get a corridor through for energy delivery; Give up the rights to several waterways in the south of Labrador which emptied into the St. Lawrence for permission to transmit electrical energy to points in the United States, etc.. Now they're at it again and Danny better get off his duff or there will be a repeat of a border dispute... Time to pull the switch in Churchill until the Quebec government agrees to the boundary set by the Privy Council of 1927....If they don't, start sending ALL that electricity to Labrador and Newfoundland as they want to do with the lower Churchill....now's the golden opportunity! Send it now!!!

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Newfoundland politicians are so lucky. They got it made. There are so many ways to divert people from real issues here. Make them think you are working for them. There is Quebec. There is the seal hunt. There is Ottawa. All the bogey men. Other politicians must be envious of Newfoundland politicians. Poor old George Bush and Hitler had to start wars to get this type of diversion on the go. Now all the call in people will bemoan evil Quebec for the next few weeks before the seal hunt circus starts up. And while we all blather about Quebec and pie in the sky projects, our economy and society can go to blazes. I should have been a politician.

  • SoldYa Boy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    This is war b'ys. It's time to mass the troops on the border, once they're back from Alberta.

  • randy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Does anyone really believe the Harper government or any government would back nl agains't Quebec.Think again folks.We don't have many friends left in federal politics,thanks to Danny

  • ron
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Its time to bring this to a head, Ottawa dosn't want to do anything againist Quebec,and will not let Nfld transport electricty through its lands.So we should take it by force or put pressure on Ottawa.You think if the shoe was on the other foot that Quebec would stand for this ?like the Hydro going on this long .What will they do when that deal runs out?? i bet ya they'll come up with some scheme to keep it with Ottawa's help.

  • Frustrated
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    How come I have never heard of this before and out of nowhere it becomes a project listed as number 1 of the top 100 projects for 2009? Why can't we even getting the wheels slowly rolling for Lower Churchill which has been on the books for eternity!

    Time to separate! There I said it! Time to hold our own referendum! Lets get out of this politically defunct / corrupt country! I am sure that we can strike a deal with the US regarding the development of our resources (both offshore and land based) and they woln't worry about getting Ottawa's permission to put a line through Quebec!

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    The government of NL needs to be careful when dealing with Quebec. Past deals prove that. Then with the Federal Government pandering to Quebec and its concerns, they need to bo extra careful and not allow the past to repeat itself!

  • newfie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    hopefully some of our MP's will be there to help us on this matter. i wouldn't count on russell here to look after our best interests.

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    If you can change the constitutional boundary merely by publishing maps that contradict that boundary, then what are the implications of all of those maps of ''the province'', that for decades omitted Labrador altogether?

  • Manny
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    W McLean from ON writes: Frustrated from Newfoundland, why is the Romaine project reason to separate?

    And does the fact that ''we can't even get the wheels turning'' on the so-called Lower Churchill project have anything to do with the ''go-it alone'' approach that involves cash funding and loan guarantees from another order of government, and imaginary sales of power via imaginary transmission lines to up to five other provinces and the U.S.?

    W Mclean...Whose side are you on, Ottawa's?