Hydro power is hardly green

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Your editorial in the July 6 edition, discussing the loss of cod stocks, states "at least part of the problem may be warming ocean waters." My late husband, Des Cousens, was a respected environmental scientist who had been senior scientist for environment at Nova Scotia Power for 20 years.

In the years before his death in 2011 he had operated his own environmental science and engineering company. He believed that a major factor in declining cod stocks was warmer ocean water temperatures.

He also believed that large hydroelectric power projects, particularly Quebec hydroelectric development, has raised water temperatures in river systems flowing into the St. Lawrence river.

These waters eventually empty into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and impact the ecosystems of the Gulf and waters surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador, resulting in reduced cod stocks, among other environmental effects.

There will be more hydroelectric development in Quebec and in our own province, i.e. the Lower Churchill.

The health of the oceans and continuing loss of an important source of quality protein, such as cod and other ocean species, is a critical environmental issue, as is creating and developing cleaner energy sources.

Hydroelectricity is generally believed to be a cleaner energy source than coal or oil, but it cannot technically be called "green" energy, according to my late husband.

As he once explained to me, damming rivers and flooding the surrounding land and forests produces methane, a greenhouse gas, from rotting vegetation such as trees.

Even worse, many may feel, is that methyl mercury leaches from the surrounding soil, contaminating the water.

Many communities in close proximity to these projects use this water source for drinking and harvest fish and wildlife to eat.

Simply put, it's a catch-22 situation, as well as a complicated set of circumstances for decision-makers.

It is also a matter of great concern for those who care about the environment and the future for life on this planet.

Betty Wells


Organizations: Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: Quebec, Lawrence river, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Just Sayin
    July 16, 2013 - 15:09

    Cod are feeling the pinch from warm water in some areas but from too cold water off nfld and Labrador The most cost effective energy source is efficiency improvements, well documented in USA studies. No interest in that here though.

  • John Smith
    July 16, 2013 - 14:15

    so burning coal, burning oil, or nuclear waste would be a greener option?Give me a break...

    • Tony Rockel
      July 17, 2013 - 00:14

      So those are the only alternatives to hydro that you are aware of? It's no wonder then that Nalcor is such a hopeless, stone-age outfit and a shocking waste of taxpayers' money.

  • Brian
    July 16, 2013 - 09:40

    There is certainly an immediate impact in terms of such releases and concentrations of what is stored in the flooded vegetation, however they return to baseline over the course of about 20-25 years, and the dam will last much, much longer.. thus, hydro is indeed 'green'.