Hydro-Québec operates facilities that cover over 31,000 km2 across most of Québec’s ecosystems. Given Hydro-Québec’s stewardship over this vast natural heritage, the company has a privileged relationship with the province’s biodiversity.

Hydro-Québec is well aware of the environmental impact of its activities. The company is committed to the ongoing reduction of its environmental footprint and the collective effort to promote biodiversity by taking it into account in its actions and decisions.

Video: Biodiversity, At the Heart of Our Energy

Duration: 1 minute 58 seconds

Landscaping power line rights-of-way to enhance biodiversity

See how transmission line rights-of-way can be landscaped to foster biodiversity. (In French only)

Consult the guide [PDF 2.40 MB — In french only]

Transmission line rights-of-way that foster biodiversity
(In french only)

Duration: 3 minutes 09 seconds

Transcription de la vidéo Aménagement favorable à la biodiversité en emprise

Transcription de la vidéoAménagement favorable à la biodiversité en emprise

2022–2026 Biodiversity Strategy

Our ambitious biodiversity strategy aims to generate tangible benefits.

This document is only available in digital format.

Biodiversity initiatives

Hydro-Québec’s initiatives build on three key themes:

  • Management and conservation of terrestrial and aquatic habitats to benefit biodiversity in its facilities
  • Ecosystem connectivity to reduce fragmentation
  • Creation of multipurpose landscape developments to benefit biodiversity in cooperation with local and Indigenous communities

Here are some of our initiatives to address biodiversity issues.

Integrated vegetation management

To ensure service continuity, we must carry out regular maintenance of the vegetation growing around our facilities. Integrated vegetation management has strong potential to enhance the biodiversity in the areas where we operate. This approach varies the frequency at which grasses are mowed to encourage more natural green spaces. Native plants can mature to height, bloom and attract pollinators, small mammals and enhance biodiversity. Not only does integrated vegetation management enrich the diversity of local plant and wildlife species, it also makes habitats more resistant. Hydro-Québec is carrying out several projects in its transmission line rights-of-way, in cooperation with municipalities, and around its administrative buildings.

Integrated vegetation management in a power line right‑of‑way. City of Dollard-Des Ormeaux.

Landscaping to benefit biodiversity in our rights-of-way

Many transmission line rights-of-way are located in urban settings and offer significant potential for landscape developments to benefit biodiversity. Flower gardens, tree plantings and wildlife shelters are just a few examples of sustainable options. These landscaped rights-of-way also help to connect natural and semi-natural habitats.

Pilot projects involving the landscaping of rights-of-way are underway in collaboration with several municipalities. In the coming year, Hydro-Québec will carry out a showcase project in Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles to give municipalities an idea of the types of landscaping that they could carry out.

Parc des Closeries in the Anjou borough in Montréal

Urban tree canopy management

In partnership with researchers from the NSERC–Hydro‑Québec Industrial Research Chair on Control of Tree Growth at UQAM, Hydro‑Québec set up experiments in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville and Saint‑Lambert. The goal is to assess, over a 15-year period, innovative approaches to controlling tree growth. These approaches aim to change vegetation management practices by promoting better coexistence between trees in urban environments and the overhead distribution system.

In fall 2020 and 2021, a total of 360 trees were planted around our administrative center in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville. Six species with different architectural characteristics were selected for this experimental forest. When these trees reach a suitable height, various growth‑management techniques will be carried out to give them a shape that is more compatible with the power system.

These six species are:

  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
  • Accolade elm (Ulmus Accolade)
  • Common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
  • Thornless honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)
  • Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)
  • Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Experimental forest in Saint-Bruno‑de‑Montarville

Approaches studied

Four approaches to growth management were explored:

  • Metal stakes that direct the branches of young trees to grow far enough from the power lines to reduce the need for pruning
  • Capping the dominant stem to inhibit the tree’s growth and encourage lateral as opposed to vertical growth (shading method)
  • Directional cutting to create a low fork while the tree is still young
  • A combination of the above

In Saint-Lambert, a municipality known for its sizeable urban forest, the test bench focuses on six trees that sit directly beneath the distribution system. Testing will start in 2023, as the trees have reached a good height.

The findings will also help Hydro-Québec advise municipalities seeking to increase their tree canopy to select trees that are compatible with the power system and in line with certain biodiversity principles, especially since an urban forest with a variety of species is more resistant to disease, pests and weather events.

Hydro-Québec has an online tool to help property owners position the right tree or shrub in the right spot. The tool recommends species that will not conflict with the power distribution system, specifies safe planting distances and offers a host of other useful information. Following these guidelines will help avoid inconveniences and reduce the number and duration of power outages.

Protection of the woodland caribou

In a sector conducive to woodland caribou, an innovative mitigation measure was implemented by Hydro-Québec as part of the project to build the Micoua-Saguenay line. Over a distance of some 10 km, the conductors were raised to maintain a connectivity corridor between the forests that are beneficial to woodland caribou northwest of the line and a biodiversity reserve to the southeast.

In the corridor, we also invested efforts to reduce the width of roads used during construction by reforesting the roadside once the work is complete. The measure is coordinated with government initiatives to recover this vulnerable species. An environmental follow-up will be carried out to determine the effectiveness of this innovative measure.

Woodland caribou

Protection of the American eel

Hydropower facilities can constitute an obstacle when eels migrate upstream, against the current, to reach the lakes and rivers where they mature. The steep slopes created by the dams can prevent eels from reaching their destination. To help them on their way, Hydro-Québec built three eel passes: one in 1997 at the Chambly dam along the Rivière Richelieu to facilitate migration to Lake Champlain and two at the Beauharnois generating station in 2002 and 2004 to facilitate the passage to Lake Ontario. Annual monitoring indicates that the initiatives are effective. Hydro-Québec takes advantage of the eels’ passing to count, measure and tag them to learn more about the species, which researchers still know very little about.

Hydroelectric turbines are also an obstacle to eels travelling downstream when leaving the continent’s lakes and rivers to return to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce. Although the vast majority of eels pass through the turbines without difficulty, there is currently no satisfactory way of completely eliminating the risk of turbine mortality in major waterways such as the Fleuve Saint-Laurent (St. Lawrence River). Hydro-Québec has been conducting research in the field since the mid-1990s. To optimize its research efforts, it partnered with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) in 2013 to co-found the Eel Passage Research Center coordinated by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). This has made it possible to test and evaluate different technologies to guide eels downstream and keep them out of turbines. Annual reports on the Center’s work are available to the public. There is good reason to expect promising results from this research in the coming years.

Video: Evidence of eels in rivière Batiscan (in French only)

Duration: 2 minutes 45 seconds

After the Huron-Wendat Nation reported eels in the Rivière Batiscan, Hydro-Québec joined forces with the Nation and other local partners in 2021 to carry out an inventory, which confirmed the presence of 74 eels. Hydro-Québec operated the Saint-Narcisse power facility located in this river until October 2018.

Non-native invasive species management

Common buckthorn, a non-native invasive species

The introduction and spread of non-native invasive species (NNIS) constitute a threat to biodiversity. Those that are harmful bring about tremendous ecological, sanitary and financial impacts. Some, like giant hogweed, are even dangerous to human health.

At Hydro-Québec, we are committed to protecting the biodiversity in forested, rural, urban and suburban environments by taking concrete measures in line with our corporate strategy on biodiversity and our action plan on biosecurity and managing NNIS.

Hydro-Québec takes an integrated approach to biosafety and non-native invasive species management in all its activities. By adopting best practices, it commits to limiting the spread of invasive species as much as possible during its operations on the territory so as not to be a vector for their introduction or propagation.

Video: Awareness about invasive alien species (in French only)

Duration: 3 minutes 33 seconds

Transplantation of plants used in traditional Innu medicine

As part of the project to build the Romaine hydroelectric complex, Hydro-Québec proposed to transplant irises in cooperation with the Innu community of Ekuanitshit. The irises are used in traditional Innu medicine and add a new ecological function to the developed wetlands.

Transplanting irises used in traditional Innu medicine in cooperation with the community of Ekuanitshit

The site chosen for the transplantation is a former sand pit that Hydro-Québec converted into a wetland and which had interesting potential to grow Indigenous medicinal plants. Indeed, its location along the Route de la Romaine provided easy access for transplanting and harvesting, which is generally done by the elders of the community.

Acquisition of knowledge on aquatic environments

To adapt to climate change, Hydro-Québec must be able to continue to develop the basic energy generation potential of hydropower to support the integration of intermittent energy sources and contribute to Canada’s decarbonization strategy.

With that in mind, it is important to have adequate knowledge of the aquatic ecosystems managed by Hydro-Québec. In addition to ensuring regulatory compliance, knowledge acquisition aims to enable the company to focus its efforts on initiatives that address the priority issues set out in its biodiversity strategy.

Surveying Baskatong reservoir