Under construction since 2009 is the 1,500 megawatt Romaine project–ranked as one of the largest construction projects in all of Canada.
One of the longest rivers in Quebec, the Romaine wound its way through unbroken boreal forests, wetlands teeming with life, plummeting over countless rapids in torrents of white water – among them the spectacular Grandes Chutes – before emptying into the St. Lawrence near the Mingan Archipelago National Park. Until construction began, the Romaine was one of the last free flowing Atlantic salmon rivers on the north shore of the St Lawrence, which will be turned into a series of four reservoirs with four hydroelectric stations.
The Romaine project is the last of dozens of big dams built in eastern Quebec on the rivers flowing into the Atlantic, beginning with the Peribonka projects in the 1940s– all of them rivers that were used by the Innu people for generations. Hydro Quebec’s SM3 project, launched in 1994, was the first project built on Innu land for which they were compensated, although the dams effectively destroyed their way of life.
Already awash in electricity, a demand for power was certainly not the incentive to build this monstrous project. Since the 1960s, Quebec has built dams to provide lucrative consulting and engineering contracts, and to create jobs, which, however, are only temporary, and so it is caught on a never-ending treadmill of dam building, even in the absence of any demand for energy. The Romaine Project proceeded on the faith that Hydro Quebec would export the power to the United States, although Vermont was, at the time of construction, its only confirmed customer.
The Romaine Alliance fought valiantly to stop this project for several years. Here is a beautiful video the group made of the river that is now only a memory.
For Further reading:
“Adieu, Romaine,” by Tripp Burwell. Forest Notes. Summer 2013.https://forestsociety.org/sites/default/files/la%20romaine%20story%20pdf.pdf