Main stages of a hydropower projectExhaustive environmental and social studies are conducted for major hydropower projects with a view to developing the best solutions, defining measures to prevent, mitigate or compensate for project impacts, and determining which aspects require environmental follow-up.
1. PlanningPreliminary studies
In this stage, the project’s technical and economic feasibility are determined. If the results are conclusive, Hydro-Québec files a Project Notification with the relevant government authorities to begin the applicable environmental review process.
2. Draft design and government permittingDuring the draft-design phase, Hydro-Québec conducts studies to collect the data required to make decisions about the project. These studies are used to define the project’s characteristics and technical design, assess the environmental impacts, develop mitigation and compensation measures, prepare environmental compliance monitoring and follow-up programs, set the project schedule and estimate the cost.
Environmental reviewIn this stage, major hydropower projects are subject to a stringent environmental review process. Depending on the nature and location of the project, this process is governed by the following laws, regulations and agreements:
- The Québec Environment Quality Act (EQA) and related regulations (Regulation respecting environmental impact assessment and review, Regulation respecting the environmental impact assessment and review applicable to a part of the northeastern Quebec region, Regulation respecting the environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure applicable to the territory of James Bay and Northern Québec);
- The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA) and the Northeastern Québec Agreement;
- The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and related regulations.
During this process, the jurisdictional authorities issue directives that specify the nature and scope of the impact assessment study that the company must carry out.
Impact assessment study
Hydro-Québec uses recognized scientific methods to ensure the quality and credibility of its impact studies and their compliance with government requirements.
All components of the physical, biological and human environments likely to be affected by the project are analyzed in the impact assessment. In fact, Hydro-Québec’s impact assessments are among the most exhaustive ever conducted in Canada. Examples are the studies for the Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project and the Romaine complex.
Consult Hydro-Québec’s most recent environmental impact statements
Upon receipt of the impact statement, the provincial and federal authorities have it reviewed by scientists and other specialists. The reviewers may request additional information from Hydro-Québec. The federal government also invites the public to submit written briefs on compliance of the impact statement.
Public hearings and decision
During the environmental review, provincial and federal review panels generally hold public hearings. Upon completion of the review process, the authorities issue the requested permits if the project satisfies all the requirements.
3. ConstructionAll the mitigation measures provided for in the impact statement are implemented during the construction phase. It is generally during this stage that the baseline conditions of the biophysical and human environments are determined for use in the post-construction environmental follow-up studies.
Environmental compliance monitoring
Compliance monitoring is assured from beginning to end of construction, that is, until site rehabilitation is completed. The compliance officers ensure that contractors and Hydro-Québec employees observe the applicable legislation and adhere to the company’s commitments.
4. OperationEnvironmental follow-up
During the operating phase, an environmental follow-up program is conducted. This consists in measuring and analyzing the actual impacts of the facilities, comparing them with the expected impacts, assessing the effectiveness of the mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures and making any necessary adjustments. Follow-up programs vary in duration depending on the components studied, and may last for decades in some cases.
Consult the overview of environmental activities
For the Romaine complex, the environmental budget—covering studies, follow-up and mitigation measures—will exceed C$320 million. Among other things, Hydro-Québec plans to conduct an extensive follow-up program that will last until 2040. This follow-up will verify the effectiveness of the mitigation measures and ensure that any necessary adjustments are made.