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ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY BOOSTS PLANS FOR QUEBEC HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT

Despite opposition from several groups of natives, a Canadian study has said preliminary plans for Canada's giant Great Whale hydro project are acceptable.

The project is scheduled to be completed in September 1999. It would produce 3,168 megawatts of power and flood 4,400 square kilometers of land in northern Quebec. The flow of the Great Whale River, which empties into Hudson's Bay, would be cut by 75 percent.

A preliminary environmental assessment, written by Hydro-Quebec, concluded that Phase One of the $6 billion project was acceptable. Phase One is the construction of hundreds of miles of roads and two airports in remote northern Quebec. The roads and airports are necessary for Phase Two of the project, which is the construction of dams on five rivers. The largest of the rivers is called the Great Whale River, from which the project gets its name.

The six-volume report, which was given to two committees for consideration Dec. 17, concluded that the project would have a minimal effect on the environment and on the culture of the Cree Indians and Inuit living in northern Quebec.

The advantages of the roads and airports would be to improve the living standards of the natives, provide easier access to traditional hunting grounds and open up new areas of livelihood such as tourism and provide work directly with the construction crews, Hydro-Quebec's report concluded.

David Craik, Cree Grand Council director of federal relations, disagreed.

"That's absolute garbage, all of that," he said in an interview with a Montreal newspaper. He concluded it was inevitably a "whitewash" since it was written by Hydro-Quebec, the company which would build and profit from the roads, airports and dams.

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