Conservation Committee Update
Another type of pipeline is threatening to come to New England this year.
HydroQuebec of Canada is proposing to build a megadam to send water power to New England. The construction of a megadam itself causes massive destruction to the homelands of Native people as well as the environment in Canada. The building of the pipeline from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts adds huge tracts to the total toll of destruction.
The megadam proposal by HydroQuebec is being opposed by the national Sierra Club and other allied organizations in Canada and the United States. The organization Northeast Megadam Resistance Alliance (NAMRA) is an ad hoc alliance of individuals and groups that came together in 2017 to oppose a plan to export hydropower to Massachusetts. While the original proposal was dropped, the current one seeks to transport the hydropower by way of a transmission line from Quebec through Maine to Massachusetts.
Photo: Beauharnois Dam in Quebec, Canada
Photocredit: Caribb on Flickr
The Sierra Club and its Chapters in New England, including Connecticut, are organizing to work with NAMRA and other organizations to stop the project. NAMRA works with allies in the U.S. to educate people and politicians about the unacceptable environmental and human impacts of megadam hydropower from Canada.
Large hydropower projects are often propagated as a “clean and green” source of electricity by international financial institutions, national governments and corporations; however, megadams and their transmission corridors have direct and irreversible impacts on our rivers and forests and contribute to the ongoing cultural genocide of Indigenous communities.
One notable environmental impact of megadams involves mercury, a naturally occurring element found in river bottom soil. When disturbed, as it often is by the construction and operation of dams, it gets converted to methylmercury. This toxic substance then bioaccumulates throughout the food web. Methylmercury is absorbed into the human body about six times more easily than inorganic mercury, making this compound extremely dangerous to those that rely on these rivers for their food, water, and culture.
The electricity that is used by society should be generated locally and cleanly. This means that power should not be generated at a plant thousands of miles away from where it will be used. This will not only reduce the environmental degradation resulting from the construction of transmission lines, but it will also make electricity more affordable and benefit local economies. By keeping power generation local, thousands of long-term jobs will be created.
The New England Governors & Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference is to be held in Connecticut this fall. This is an annual occasion that will be a great opportunity to let the Governors and Premiers know the folly of this undertaking.
Marcia Wilkins is Chair of Sierra Club Connecticut’s Conservation Committee.