“Building Together – A hydro project in Quebec works with collaboration from its neighbours.”, by Antonia McGuire appeared in WaterCanada’s May/June 2011 edition.
New roads, transported goods and purchased services, employment for trades and construction workers, transferred knowledge of a water treatment technology to the local community. When it comes to the business of water sustainability, the regional economic spinoffs are clearly significant. In the case of Eastmain 1A/Sarcelle, a northern Quebec hydroelectric project, the local community benefited from a boost of up to $1.4 billion, increasing quality of life and providing jobs. Of that amount, $632 million went to contracts awarded to the Cree people in the area, and over $260 million was invested in environmental measures.
Some people are already calling it Canada’s project of the decade, but what’s truly unique about this project is its collaborative approach. As part of its $5 billion sustainability development strategy Hydro-Québec’s Société de développement de la Baie James (see “About SDBJ/SEBJ” at end) has earned an international reputation for providing world-class services in project engineering and construction in cooperation with First Nations communities.
Hydro-Québec and subsidiary SEBJ have an agreement to work together with the Cree people—through the partnership, they share resources such as personnel and environmental experts to assess the risks around water quality.
“A joint committee of representatives from the Cree and SEBJ decides everything together—how we go about it, who does it, and what it means for the Cree communities,” says Hydro- Québec’s biologist specializing in water quality for SEBJ, Roger Schetagne. “The Cree participate in all sampling, and are involved in every stage of the project. The methodology and all results are presented to the community very openly.”
It doesn’t end there. Despite $1.25-billion spent over four years by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada on water and wastewater infrastructure, documents obtained from Health Canada revealed that one in five First Nations communities still lack safe drinking water…Prior to the agreement with Hydro-Québec, the Cree Waskaganish First Nation did not have an adequate water treatment system and some people still used and drank surface water from the river.
“Water services were already an issue for the Waskaganish community, who, at the time, had an obsolete drinking water facility,” says Schetagne. Before the project, he says, SEBJ and First Nations people decided to build a new water treatment facility. The location and type of water treatment was decided with the Cree, and the facility was completed in 2009. It runs on a waterproof membrane water cleaning technology that is easily transferred to the Cree people.
The SEBJ/Hydro-Québec and Cree project team also provides a targeted local health campaign about healthy, safe drinking water practices. “We work in collaboration with the Cree board of health on this issue,” says Schetagne.
This sustainability development project is not only bridging two cultures to do business, but the work being done along the way is helping others develop real-world adaptation strategies— lessons that can provide benefits to the partnership and beyond.
Back in 1971,the Société de développement de la Baie James
(SDBJ) formed a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec known as Société
d’énergie de la Baie James (SEBJ). For the past three decades, SEBJ has offered numerous services in power generation, transmission plant engineering, project management, and construction, as well as developed an expertise in remote areas and multicultural environments. Today, Hydro-Québec’s SEBJ group is spearheading one of the largest hydroelectric developments in the multicultural environments.
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