Explainer: Magpie collects dam protesters!

Magpie collects dam protesters!

A little-known river outside of Sept-Îles, Quebec, has suddenly become a very well-known river, thanks to plans to build a dam and the efforts of a few very prominent people who object. Last week, a group of environmental activists and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, rafted their way down the Magpie River to draw attention to its unspoiled beauty and lambaste the proposal to build a small dam on it. (Quebec actor Roy Dupuis is also against the proposal.)

Explainer floats the details on the Magpie dam.

Here’s how Earth River Expeditions, a company that offers eight-day rafting tours of the Magpie, describes the river: "Beginning on Newfoundland’s Labrador Plateau in Eastern Quebec, the Magpie River flows untouched through hundreds of miles of lake-dotted virgin forests of pine and multicoloured moss, hurling down steep granite gorges and off spectacular falls before emptying into the St. Lawrence River." The river is located 900 kilometres north of Montreal, 150 km from Sept-Îles, and requires a trip by floatplane to access it. It runs just over 190 km in total and fewer than 300 people are said to have rafted it. However, Alain Saladzius, co-director of the Rivers Foundation, says that the relative anonymity of the river does not change the fact that a Parks Canada report found it may be suitable as a national park. "This report supports what we defend and the message that we want to convey with this expedition, that is, that the conservation of the rivers is more profitable than their destruction," he said. Quebec is said to be lagging behind the rest of the country in protecting its natural areas. The rest of Canada has 10 per cent protected areas, while we are estimated to have between 0.5 and 5 per cent.

2. So what’s with the dam? Hydromega, a private local company, has proposed a 30-foot-high dam near the end of the river. The idea is to supply Hydro-Quebec with the resulting power, which is expected to be 40 megawatts – enough to power 40,000 homes. The dam builders say they will not harm the river or prevent rafting, and the project would provide local municipalities with a windfall of $15-million over 25 years. The provincial government is expected to make its decision in mid-September, and if the answer is yes then the dam could be up and running by January.

3. Rafters such as these object to the dam because they say it will flood the most beautiful parts of the river: a 4 km canyon that includes a 25-foot waterfall and challenging rapid. Says Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who flew in last week to shoot the rapids for a second time, "If someone promoted its values, this river would produce more revenue and a lot more jobs than building a dam that would make a few people rich by impoverishing this landscape forever."

Posted in

Explainer, News