A project for sustainable development

Environmental Protection

Right from the design stage, the Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project has incorporated many environmental protection measures that take into account the concerns of the host communities.

Owing to a combination of dikes and canals that improve water flow, the creation of the Rupert diversion bays flooded a minimal land area. Moreover, a substantial ecological instream flow and a series of weirs in the Rupert protect fish habitat, preserve the landscape and maintain navigation and other activities in the area. Another important aspect is that the Crees participated in all stages of the project, from design to environmental follow-up.

Protecting our human environment and heritage


The follow-up consists in assessing motorboating, canoeing and kayaking conditions in the Rupert, Lemare and Nemiscau rivers, Rupert diversion bays and Boyd and Sakami lakes. Hydro Québec monitors flow and water levels in modified water bodies before and after diversion. Corrective measures are implemented as needed to ensure that the streams remain navigable.

Actions Reasons

A 29% instream flow was restored to the river downstream of Rupert dam.

The instream flow reduces the drop in water level below Rupert dam so that the river remains navigable.

A flow equivalent to the natural flow of the Lemare and Nemiscau rivers were restored.

The hydraulic structures ensure that water levels in the Lemare and Nemiscau rivers are maintained.

Eight hydraulic structures were built.

The hydraulic structures raised the water level and improve navigability on the lower Rupert.

A safe detour was built around work areas.

Construction work in the water interfered with navigation.

Measures to make the diversion bays navigable and safe:

  • Navigation corridors were cleared
  • Boat ramps were built.
  • Portages were created near structures.
  • Signs were set up near structures.
  • Booms were installed in the Rivière Rupert's upstream of the transfer tunnel and spillway and in the Rivière Lemare above the instream flow release structure.

Creation of the diversion bays.

Measures to make the reduced-flow section navigable and safe:

  • Boat ramps were built.
  • Portages were created.
  • A navigation chart of the river was produced.

The instream flow and eight hydraulic structures ensure that the entire reduced-flow section of the Rivière Rupert remains navigable. However, routes were changed in river stretches not controlled by hydraulic structures.

Measures to facilitate navigation and shore access in the increased-flow section:

  • Wood debris were collected in cooperation with the Crees.
  • A chart of navigation corridors was produced.

The increased flow may cause wood debris to accumulate in certain bays.

Hunting, Fishing and Trapping


The follow-up program will continue for up to 15 years after diversion of the Rivière Rupert. The mitigation measures introduced with land users were monitored to see how they have adapted their hunting, fishing and trapping activities to the new environmental conditions.

Actions Reasons

In cooperation with the Crees, measures were introduced to enable trapline users affected by the project to pursue their harvesting activities.

  • Relocation of Cree camps.

  • Access development (ATV and snowmobile trails, boat ramps, portages).
  • Installation of signs to indicate campsites and snowmobile trails.
  • Development of 10 hectares of wetlands and ponds that provide rest areas for waterfowl and good hunting sites.
  • Restoration of the lake cisco dip-net fishing site at Smokey Hill.

The project affects about 12% of the Crees' traplines (36 out of 286). Cree users will have to reorganize their hunting, fishing and trapping operations.

Some camps are located within the diversion bays or in areas slated for construction.

The project changed the configuration of some water bodies, the road network and snowmobile trails. Users changed some boat or snowmobile routes to harvest their traplines or reach their camps.

The loss of certain hunting sites when the diversion bays are flooded and the reduced flow in the Rivière Rupert disrupted Cree goose hunting.

Reduced flow in the Rivière Rupert also changed fishing conditions at Smokey Hill.

Schedule for implementation of mitigation measuresme
Camp relocation, road construction, hunting and fishing measures: 2007 to 2011.

Social Aspects for Crees


The follow-up covered the effectiveness of measures introduced to help integrate the Cree workers into the project and to harmonize relations between the workers and the Cree communities. It also dealt with such aspects as careers and training.

Actions Reasons

In cooperation with the contractors and Cree organizations, measures were introduced to facilitate the integration of Cree workers at the various workcamps.

Measures were introduced to harmonize relations between workers and the Cree communities.

To help Cree workers, who were away from their families for several weeks, adapt to a living environment that is very different from their native communities.

To manage relations between workers and Cree communities, which are usually isolated.

Schedule for mitigation measures
Integration measures for Cree workers: 2007 to 2011.
Community relations committee: 2007 to 2011.

Water Quality and Supply in Waskaganish


Hydro-Québec is careful to maintain water uses in the rivers extensively used by the Crees. Water color, turbidity and suspended solids are monitored in the Rupert and Nemiscau rivers, mainly in areas where Cree camps are located and at Waskaganish.

Actions Reasons

A new drinking water plant was built in Waskaganish to meet the community's needs until 2025.

The capacity of the water treatment plant could not keep pace with the community's future requirements.

Sport Fishing and Hunting


From 2007 to 2011, we conducted an annual follow-up on sport fishing and hunting by workers to characterize these activities and determine whether conditions need to be changed or incentives introduced to reduce the impacts.

The follow-up will assessed the satisfaction of the Cree tallymen affected by these measures.

Actions Reasons

The Weh-Sees Indohoun Corporation oversaw hunting and fishing in an area covering 16,656 km2, which encompasses most of the workcamps.

Outside this area, measures were introduced to encourage workers to declare their fishing sites and catches voluntarily.

To prevent overharvesting of wildlife by workers who hunt and fish for sport, as well as the potential conflicts with Cree land users these activities may cause.

The follow-up studies conducted for the Eastmain-1 project showed that this measure is appreciated by the Crees and effectively prevents overharvesting of wildlife.

Schedule of mitigation measures
Measures governing sport hunting and fishing by workers: 2009 to 2011.

Mercury and Health


To manage the risk related to fish consumption, we monitor mercury levels in the main species of fish eaten by anglers and the Crees. Monitoring will continue until the mercury levels allow for a consumption frequency comparable to the level it was before the project.

A detailed monitoring protocol was submitted to the parties concerned for discussion and implementation.

Actions Reasons
  • Fish mercury levels is measured in the Rupert diversion bays, the lower Rupert, Lemare and Nemiscau rivers, the section downstream of Eastmain-1-A powerhouse and in Opinaca reservoir.
  • A food guide on fish consumption was published in conjunction with the regional public health authorities.
  • Access was provided to alternate water bodies.

These measures enable users of the area to continue to eat fish without being exposed to the undesirable effects of mercury.

Creation of the diversion bays submerged a large quantity of terrestrial organic matter that releases methylmercury as it undergoes bacterial decomposition. Consumed by all aquatic organisms, this form of mercury accumulates throughout the food chain.

The expected rise in mercury concentrations is temporary. Mercury levels in fish increase in the diversion bays and, to a lesser extent, in the Nemiscau, Lemare and Rupert rivers below the instream flow release structures. Mercury levels will peak 5 to 10 years after impoundment of the diversion bays, then return to normal after 10 to 30 years, depending on the species. Mercury content were higher in fish-eating species like northern pike, lake trout and walleye than in species that feed on insects, plankton or benthos, like lake whitefish and sturgeon.

Actions Reasons
  • The archaeological inventory begun in 2002 will continue.
  • Digs were conducted at the archaeological sites discovered.

The archaeology program achieved the following goals:

  • improve historical knowledge about the occupation and use of this land and its resources through the ages.
  • recover and preserve evidence of human presence and provide new information for interpreting the phenomena observed.
  • enrich the overall knowledge of the area's cultural and archaeological heritage.

The Crees and, insofar as possible, members of the families concerned, worked at the digs with the teams of archaeologists.

In addition, under the Boumhounan Agreement, Hydro-Québec created a fund to be administered by Niskamoon Corporation for the development and enhancement of Cree archaeological and cultural heritage. This archaeological research supplements the research done by Hydro-Québec.

Projectile-point made of Mistassini quartzite.

Small, iron matchbox from the late 19th
or early 20th century.

Construction of the hydroelectric project resulted in the loss of some archaeological sites.

Surveys begun in 2002 made it possible to locate archaeological sites and digs conducted in 2007 led to the discovery of lithic tools, Amerindian ceramic shards, glass beads, etc.

Uncovering the soil horizons manually
with a trowel.

Uncovering firepits, the oldest of which
was made about 3,800 years ago.

Dig on the Lemare River.
Note the visible soil horizons.

Schedule of mitigation measures
Archaeological inventory: 2007 and 2008.
Archaeological digs: 2007 to 2010.



After the diversion bays impounded, an annual follow-up will be done to track changes in deforestation by natural agents such as lower ice cover, waves and wind. Wood debris will be removed over a six-year period.

Actions Reasons

Rupert diversion bays

  • Nearly 60 km2 of forest were cleared in the Rupert diversion bays, mainly by Cree businesses and the Cree trappers affected by the project.
  • Merchantable timber was recovered from nearly 9 km2 and offered to the Cree sawmill at Waswanipi in accordance with the commitment undertaken in the Boumhounan Agreement.

To improve navigation, shore access, user safety, landscape quality and flow.

To reduce loss of forest resources through the profitable recovery of accessible timber.

Clearing: 2007 to 2009



After diversion, Hydro-Québec assessed the impact of the reduced flow on the river's scenery and on users' perceptions of the Rivière Rupert , and identified any necessary mitigation measures.

Actions Reasons

Eight hydraulic structures

In addition to protecting fish habitats and facilitating navigation, the eight hydraulic structures maintained average water levels over nearly half of the reduced-flow section of the Rivière Rupert to preserve the natural aspect of the landscape in these areas.

The diversion of about half the flow in the Rivière Rupert changed the river's landscape.


Steps were taken as needed to improve the appearance of Oatmeal and Smokey Hill rapids after diversion, to maintain the rapids' scenic quality at two observation areas.

Reduced flow volume and velocity in the Rivière Rupert changed the appearance of the rapids.

Scenic lookouts and information panels

  • A scenic lookout was built and information panels erected at the site of Rupert dam.
  • Information panels were set up near boat ramps in the Rupert diversion bays.

  • To showcase the structures.
  • To share knowledge acquired about the area.

Schedule of mitigation and enhancement measures
Hydraulic structures: 2009 and 2010.
Scenic lookout and panels: 2009 to 2011.

Protecting species diversity and the biophysical environment



Fish communities are monitored to ensure that species diversity and abundance is maintained and to check the efficiency of the spawning grounds created and the instream flow. If the monitoring reveals an unexpected impact or shows that an impact was underestimated, the impact is studied jointly with the Crees and the relevant authorities, and corrective action are taken quickly.

The follow-up in the Rupert diversion bays and reduced-flow section include:

  • fish population dynamics.
  • usage of existing and new spawning grounds.
  • lake cisco and lake sturgeon larvae drift.
  • regeneration of aquatic grassbeds.
  • accessibility for fish of the tributaries of modified water bodies.
  • accessibility of the fish passes at the KP 223 and 290 weirs.

The follow-up in the increased-flow section include:

  • usage of the spawning areas created downstream of Sarcelle powerhouse.
  • sustainability of the existing spawning ground at the mouth of the Boyd River.
Actions Reasons

In the reduced-flow section of the Rivière Rupert

A 29% instream flow was restored downstream of Rupert dam.

The instream flow protects most of the lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, walleye, sucker and pike spawning grounds.

A blanket of granular material was laid at KP 20.4.

The granular blanket protects the anadromous lake cisco spawning ground; this species spawns every fall downstream of Smokey Hill Rapids.

Seven hydraulic structures were built.

The hydraulic structures mainly protect fish feeding and rearing habitats.

The following were developed:

  • four spawning areas that can be used by various species near the KP 110, 170 and 223 weirs and downstream of Rupert dam.
  • a lake sturgeon spawning ground near the KP 290 weir.
  • several brook trout spawning areas in the Rivière Rupert's tributaries.

Despite the construction of weirs below Rupert dam, the flow reduction caused habitat loss. The new spawning grounds sustained the species present.

Production and seeding of young sturgeon:

  • more than 10,000 annually.
  • release into the Rivière Rupert downstream of Lac Nemiscau.

Reduced flow may decrease sturgeon productivity.

Seeding improves species reproduction in a place where they used to be abundant.

In the Rupert diversion bays

The following were developed:

  • three lake trout spawning areas.
  • two lake sturgeon spawning areas.
  • several multispecies spawning areas.

The creation of a new 346-km2 body of water caused an overall gain in fish habitat. Some spawning grounds were flooded, but they were replaced to maintain fish reproduction and diversity in the area.

Schedule of mitigation measures
Spawning ground development: 2009 and 2010.
Production and seeding of young sturgeon: 2008 to 2012.

Lake sturgeon: a long-lived species
Esturgeon jaune

Lake sturgeon is a species of special interest. In the north, these fish can live more than 80 years. The age at first spawning is about 25 for males and 30 to 40 for females. Reproduction frequency is about 6 years for males and 10 years for females. Lake sturgeon is of major environmental interest and is likely to be designated a vulnerable species. It is highly prized and only Cree fishermen are allowed to fish for sturgeon in the Baie James region.

Anadromous lake cisco
Cisco de lac anadrome

The anadromous lake cisco population feeds in Baie-de-Rupert and Baie-James in spring and much of the summer. Many of these fish travel up the lower Rivière Rupert in August and September to spawn downstream of Smokey Hill Rapids. The project had little effect on the large lake cisco spawning ground in the Rivière Rupert at Smokey Hill because of the instream flow and rock blanket, which maintain water levels over more than three kilometres of the spawning ground.



The bird follow-up program include aerial and field surveys in various areas to check the extent of the impacts on waterfowl, raptors, woodland birds and special-status species. It also assesses usage of the nesting platforms and new ponds.

Actions Reasons

In the Rupert diversion bays

Nesting platforms were set up around the Rupert diversion bays for great gray owls and, as needed, for osprey and bald eagles.

Some ponds were created in a wooded peatland north of the tailbay to encourage Bonaparte's gulls to breed.

Creation of the diversion bays flooded the nesting areas of several bird species.

Schedule for mitigation measures
Erection of nesting platforms: 2010.
Creation of ponds: 2009.

Moose and Caribou


After impoundment of the diversion bays, Hydro-Québec monitors the abundance and density of moose and caribou in the area.

Actions Reasons

In the Rupert diversion bays

Helicopter fly-overs will track the movements of land animals and, if necessary, endangered animals were rescued.

Impoundment of the diversion bays force moose and caribou to travel around the flooded areas.

Schedule of mitigation measures
Monitoring: December 2009.

Beavers and Bears


During impoundment, Hydro-Québec tracked land animals by helicopter and, if needed, rescued endangered animals. Several years after impoundment, Hydro-Québec will inventory the beaver colonies that have established themselves along the shorelines of the new water bodies.

Actions Reasons

In the Rupert diversion bays and the reduced-flow section of the Rivière Rupert .

Prior to impoundment, the tallymen traped or relocated beavers and bears in the areas to be flooded or exposed, according to previous inventories.

The creation of the Rupert diversion bays, the building of roads, camps and various structures, and exposure of the Rivière Rupert's banks may have caused losses of wildlife.

Schedule of mitigation measures
Surveying, trapping or relocation of beavers: 2007 to 2009.
Surveying, trapping or relocation of bears: 2009.

Special-Status Species

Woodland caribou

In recent years, researchers have defined three caribou ecotypes: mountain caribou, which live in the Chic-Chocs mountains in the Gaspé and the Torngat mountains along the east coast of Baie d'Ungava, barren-ground caribou, which migrate thousands of kilometres every year to calve on the tundra, and woodland caribou, which live year-round in small, isolated, sedentary herds in the boreal forest.

Woodland caribou is a vulnerable species in Québec. The Rupert diversion bays are one area where woodland and barren-ground caribou mix. In some winters, herds of barren-ground caribou travel as far south as the diversion bays then head north again in April to calve. The presence of woodland caribou in spring and summer indicates that the area is frequented by this species. However, their abundance and calving grounds in the region are not known. Special monitoring is being conducted for this species.

Special-status birds

The diversion bay area is frequented by short-eared owls, bald eagles and Bonaparte's gulls. The nesting habitat of some breeding pairs of gulls changed when the tailbay was created. To mitigate this impact, bog pools were dug in a nearby treed peatland. Thirteen species of rare or vulnerable birds were counted in Baie de Rupert, including marbled godwit, sandhill crane, yellow rail and Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow. These species were not affected by the project. Two marbled godwit nests were discovered in June 2003 in the bay's riparian habitats. These are the first nests of this species recorded in Québec.

Boreal chorus frog

The boreal chorus frog is a tiny amphibian that grows to an adult size of less than 4 cm. Its presence in Québec was officially confirmed for the first time during the surveys conducted for the project, when the species was sighted in the high coastal marshes of Baie de Rupert. The project has no impact on this species.

Special-status plants

Four species of plants likely to be designated vulnerable in Québec were found in a 2-km strip of land bordering the Rivière Rupert: Gratiola aurea f. pusilla (golden hedge-hyssop), Hieracium robinsonii (Robinson's hawkweed), Hudsonia tomentosa (sand heather) and Canadanthus modestus (great northern aster). Only a few golden hedge-hyssop plants were affected by the flow reduction and this species receives special attention in the follow-up.



Bank stability is monitored along the reduced-flow stretch of the Rivière Rupert at the Waskaganish water intake and along the Grande Rivière estuary.

Our follow-up activities include taking measurements to assess how the banks have changed from their baseline state, as well as verifying the effectiveness of our mitigation measures.

Actions Reasons

Downstream of Rupert dam.

The more sensitive exposed areas were seeded with grasses to limit the risk of erosion.

The existing armor rock at the Waskaganish water intake was extended to protect the structure.

Despite the reduction in flow, some areas remain sensitive to erosion, particularly newly exposed banks.

There are unstable slopes near the water intake.

In the Grande Rivière estuary

The erosion-sensitive sections of banks between La Grande-1 generating station and Chisasibi were blanketed with granular material to stabilize the base of the slope.

The increased flow in the Grande Rivière estuary may have intensified the current rate of bank erosion.

Schedule of mitigation measures
Bank stabilization along the Rivière Rupert: 2010 and 2011.
Bank stabilization along the Grande Rivière estuary: 2007 to 2009.


Environmental Compliance at the Jobsite

Construction: 2007 to 2012

The scale of this project required the use of at least six workcamps:

  • three existing camps: Eastmain, Nemiscau and the rest stop at Km 257.
  • three new camps: Rupert, Sarcelle and Oujeck.

Our environmental compliance team

A dozen permanent site supervisors ensured that:

  • work complied with the terms of more than 1,000 permits issued by various government departments and with legal and other environmental requirements.
  • contractors and employees were informed and educated about their environmental protection responsibilities.
  • disruptions to Cree land users' activities were kept to a minimum.

The environmental management system of the SEBJ unit responsible for the Eastmain projects has been ISO 14001 certified since 2003. The certificate was renewed in 2006 under updated standard ISO 14001:2004.

The following components were monitored for environmental compliance:

  • Drinking water supply.
  • Wastewater treatment.
  • Waste.
  • Recyclables and hazardous waste.
  • Contaminants.
Actions Reasons

Drinking water

Rigorous water sampling and analysis on a regular basis ensured that workers in the various camps have excellent drinking water.

The workers' health and quality of life needed to be protected.


The efficiency of wastewater treatment equipment was checked monthly; workcamp sewage was processed through rotating biological disks, bioreactors or peatlands.

The host environment was protected and environmental discharge standards maintained.


All waste, other than hazardous waste, was collected and transported to a trench landfill.

This protected the host environment.

Recyclables and hazardous waste

Paper, paperboard, metal and tires were recycled and transported to recovery and recycling centres.

All hazardous wastes (mainly used oil) were also recovered and transported away from the Baie James area.

Recycling protects the quality of the environment.


All workers at the jobsite were informed of the emergency plan for contaminant spills to enable them to act quickly and contain them if they occured.

The environment was protected from contaminants.

Site Restoration
Actions Reasons

Quarries, sand pits, disposal sites for excavated materials, contractor areas, work areas, workcamps and temporary road were or will be restored.

  • Some 5.8 million shrubs were planted.
  • About 400 ha of land were seeded.
  • To help nature regenerate as quickly as possible.
  • To improve landscape quality.
  • When conditions permit, to create new wildlife habitat, including staging areas for migrating Canada geese.

Restoration: 2008 to 2012.

Environmental Follow-Up and Monitoring Objectives

  • Monitor changes in the environment, observe the efficacy of mitigation measures, and make the necessary corrections.
  • Prevent or mitigate unexpected impacts.
  • Acquire knowledge in order to improve future projects.

Environmental components monitored

Physical environment
Hydrology and hydraulics
Bank erosion
Sedimentary regime
Water temperature
Ice cover
Water quality

Biological environment
Land and semi-aquatic wildlife

Human environment
Cree society and culture
Public health and mercury
Hunting, fishing and trapping by Cree communities
Sport hunting and fishing
Economic spinoffs and training programs

Aspects considered during the design phase

  • Minimal flooding of land.
  • Introduction of an ecological instream flow regime at the Rivière Rupert closure point.
  • Maintenance of flow equivalent to the natural flow in the Lemare and Nemiscau rivers.
  • Building of hydraulic structures on the Rivière Rupert to protect fish communities and habitat, preserve the natural appearance of the river and support navigation and land use in some of its stretches.
  • Preservation of the natural levels in Mesgouez and Champion lakes and maintenance of the level in Lac Nemiscau.
  • Secure drinking water supply for Waskaganish.
  • Maintenance of the water level in Lac Sakami, as stipulated in the Sakami Lake Agreement.

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