Anderson has referred the project back to the federal authority, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, for appropriate action.

After considering the comprehensive study report, the public comments and the responsible authority’s response to the comments, Anderson concluded that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, provided that the mitigation measures and follow-up programme identified in the comprehensive study report are implemented.

His decision takes into account the commitment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to include a specific condition in the authorisation it will issue under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The condition requires that a five-year follow-up programme be implemented to verify the effectiveness of the measures taken to mitigate the project’s adverse effects on navigation.

Under this follow-up programme, if the current navigability status is not maintained relative to the baseline status established in the summer of 2002, Hydro-Québec will be required to implement corrective measures until the navigation conditions on the affected watercourses are found to be satisfactory by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Hydro-Québec will also have to consult the users of the river by 1 May following each year of the follow-up, regarding the navigation characteristics of the watercourses and the corrective measures, if any, to be taken.

‘The inclusion and implementation of this condition are the key factors that allow me to conclude that the project would not have significant effects on navigation,’ said Minister David Anderson. ‘Fisheries and Oceans Canada will have to carefully oversee the implementation and enforcement of this condition.’

The Manouane river, which flows into the Péribonka river, is located in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Canada. The water would be diverted to the Pipmuacan reservoir on the North Shore, thereby optimising the operation of two hydroelectric power plants on the Betsiamites river.

The project involves the construction of a dam and three dikes at approximately 97km of the Manouane river. A minimum flow of 3m3/sec would be maintained at all times in the river, at the site of the dam.