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Coalition Of Indigenous Tribes In Quebec Are Suing To Stop Hydro-Quebec Powerline Construction

CMP corridor construction
Brian Bechard
Maine Public
Construction has started on Central Maine Power's corridor that is meant to carry hydroelectric power from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts, although the project still faces numerous legal and other challenges.

A coalition of First Nation tribes in Quebec is filing suit against the provincial government to stop construction of a controversial powerline that would bring electricity from government-owned dams through Maine into the New England grid.

Mainers are familiar with the fight over the Central Maine Power, the initiated plan to build 145 miles of new and upgraded transmission line on this side of the border. On the Quebec side, a coalition of indigenous tribes is suing to stop construction of about 64 miles of new transmission line needed there to connect the Hydro-Quebec system to Maine's, near Jackman.

"We're saying 'enough is enough and you need to respect the rights of our peoples,'" says Lucien Wabanonik, a spokesman for the coalition of five tribes, and a member of the Anishnabeg Nation.

The other tribes on the coalition are the Lac Simon, Kitcisakik, Wemotaci (Atilamekw Nation) and Pessamit (Innu Nation), representing about 7,000 people, Wabanonik says.

He says that while the Canadian transmission line would not directly cross tribal lands, more than a third of the dam system providing electricity for the project are on lands the tribes never ceded to the province. And Wabanonik says that to serve the contracts, Hydro-Quebec is increasing production capacity at its reservoirs, likely further stressing ecosystems the tribes depend on for sustenance.

"And this is something that they're investing for a few years now. But there was no consultation, no accommodation, nor compensation to our people because of the impacts," Wabanonik says.

In an email statement, a Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman says the challenge is not valid because the transmission line route is far from tribal lands, and will not require changes in minimum or maximum reservoir levels. She also says "no new generation facilities are needed" to provide the added energy supply to the U.S.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.