THE CREES OF NORTHERN Quebec and the Canadian province of Quebec have reached an agreement in principle that would allow Hydro-Quebec to build two hydroelectric projects near James Bay, worth US$2.4B.

As a part of the agreement, Cree would receive US$43.2M over the next two years, and a minimum of US$43.8M a year over a 50-year period.

Concerns about environmental damage along the diverted Rupert river will have to be weighed against the financial and economic benefits. If the projects do not meet the requirements of the proposed three-year environmental review, they can be cancelled. Although, according to a Cree spokesman, Crees will still get their money, as Quebec bears the financial risk.

In 1975, Cree signed an agreement to allow the James Bay development to proceed. The 1975 agreement gave them US$156.5M in return for land and development rights.

However, implementing the agreement was not successful, ending in protracted legal battles with the Cree suing Quebec for US$2.3B. As part of the current deal, Cree would drop their US$2.3B claim against Quebec.

Difficulties with the 1975 agreement also lead to Cree opposing the massive US$10.6B Great Whale project.