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Letter to the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change: Dam safety

Eau générique Faites un Don

Montreal, May 7, 2019

Mr. Benoit Charette, Minister
Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change
Marie-Guyart Building
675, boulevard René-Lévesque Est, 30e floor
Quebec (Quebec) G1R 5V7

Subject: Dam safety – Delays in securing hydroelectric power stations


The recent last-minute evacuation of residents of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, threatened by the rupture of the dam at the Bell power station, owned by Hydro-Québec, once again highlights the importance of ensuring sound management of works. The Dam Safety Act is supposed to assume most of the governance, ensure the safety of the population and preserve capital assets, but following this event, we checked what is happening with the others hydroelectric power stations. We were able to note gaps in its application. 

According to the Directory of Dams that we consulted, the production and approval of reports assessing the safety of structures and the implementation of corrective measures are experiencing worrying delays for around forty installations in Quebec. These delays sometimes exceed 10 years and are noted at the different stages of control provided for in the Law:

  • lack of safety assessment study;
  • delays by owners in submitting or completing their study;
  • delays in submitting the statement of corrections and the implementation schedule;
  • delays in carrying out the work and non-compliance with the approved schedule.

This last type of delay or non-compliance is the most frequently observed. It is difficult to understand why the completion of the work is so delayed when for these works, according to the Directory of Dams, the steps required to ensure safety are not carried out. The Grenville-sur-la-Rouge power station is part of this list, with a delay incurred since the approval of the schedule of required fixes of almost four years. And it took three years to approve the safety assessment report! Shouldn’t there be an obligation to proceed expeditiously? And should we base the work schedule essentially on the opinion of the owner's Engineer, as currently provided for in the Dams Act? 

It appears to us that the process must be accelerated by tightening project monitoring and revising the Dam Safety Act in order to set maximum deadlines and penalties in the event of non-compliance. Flood flows of different recurrences should possibly be revised in the current context of climate change. 

We attach, annexed to this email as well as an attachment, a list of installations whose monitoring appears to be deficient, only for hydroelectric power stations.

Furthermore, the electricity from several of these power stations is purchased by Hydro-Québec. It seems justified to us that Hydro-Québec does not pay the full price to purchase electricity from installations that do not comply with safety rules or do not hold all the rights and titles.

We remain available for any collaboration you may wish in this matter. 

Please accept, Mr. Minister, the expression of our distinguished feelings.

Alain Saladzius, P.Eng., FIC
President, Fondation Rivières

Photo: Tim Marshall/Unsplash


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