James Bay Project

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

James Bay Project

James Bay Project, a colossal hydroelectric development of the rivers emptying into the E James Bay, central Quebec, Canada. La Grande Phase I, finished in 1985, created the world's largest underground powerhouse, a tiered spillway on La Grande River three times the height of Niagara Falls, and five reservoirs that total half the volume of Lake Ontario. La Grande Phase II, involving the redirection of flow from the Eastmain, Laforge, and Caniapiscau rivers into La Grande, was largely completed when further work was suspended in 1994. For much of its history up to that point the project had evoked a tremendous response from environmentalists and the Cree, who claimed that the project was destroying the region and disrupting the lives of the native population as rivers were diverted, forests incinerated, and wilderness areas inundated. The Great Whale Project, involving the diversion of the Little Whale and Nastapoca rivers into the Great Whale River, and the NBR Project, involving the diversion of the Rupert and Nottaway rivers into the Broadback River basin, were also suspended; no construction on either had begun. In 2002 an agreement with the Cree cleared the way for completion of La Grande Phase II and the diversion of the upper Rupert River into the La Grande (via the Eastmain and other diverted rivers). The NBR Project was canceled.

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