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Conservationists Cheer as Quebec Cancels 850-MW Hydro Project

Project opponents reacted with surprise and delight late last week after Hydro-Québec cancelled plans to build an 850-megawatt hydroelectric project on the Magpie River, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence.

“It is not in our strategic plan anymore. It is not (among) our projects,” Public Affairs and Media Manager Serge Abergel said Thursday, before a crowd of about 50 cheering protesters. “Be reassured, there is no project (for) this river, (and) we won’t touch it. We won’t go there.” He said the Crown utility sees no need to increase its electricity supply at this time.

“We are completely surprised,” said Alain Branchaud, Quebec director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). “We’ve been fighting for this for the past 15 years,” and now the push will be on to designate the area with protected status.

Hydro-Québec’s surprise announcement to abandon plans to dam the popular river followed intensive opposition from environmentalists and some locals from the region,” National Observer reports. “The area is known for its majestic scenery, including the hills, the cliffs, and the imposing, untouched wilderness of the boreal forest.” National Geographic magazine has highlighted the Magpie as one of the world’s best spots for whitewater rafting, and Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’Environnement (Office of Public Environmental Consultation, or BAPE) “had previously found a number of reasons why the Hydro-Québec project should be stopped,” notes Observer correspondent Clothilde Goujard.

“The Quebec Chapter of CPAWS and citizens from the region have also argued that the river can generate economic benefits through tourism in the remote north shore region of Quebec,” she adds. “Their fight to make the Magpie river a protected area is part of a wider CPAWS strategy to increase protection of Canada’s biodiversity.”