In the cold night of torrents of heavy-duty rock climbing machines, they resound through the Canadian boreal forests: in the north of Quebec, four massive hydro power plants that will produce "clean energy" for the northeastern United States are nearing completion.
Passing more than 500 miles through the Romaine River desert in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec, it will soon be up to take the fourth and last power plant to a literal wall at 51 degrees north latitude.
Once completed, the construction project – which began in 2009 – will see the cold, clean waters of one of the longest unmarked rivers in Canada, surrounded by the lands that have been claimed by the indigenous tribes.
From far distance, the lights at the place where more than 800 large lorry trucks are used, drills and giant boilers represent the reflection of stars on the night sky.
Teams from Hydro-Quebec work on two fronts.
They break down the mountain to make room for the power plant. They also raise a pit of 500 meters and a height of 90 meters that will keep the water to be used to generate electricity.
Quebec has a surplus of energy, so the government hopes to sell the generated energy to the US neighbors in the south, and in turn will help alleviate global warming.
Damage Construction Damage
The construction site stretches for several kilometers: it has a full cement plant, an ambulance for workers, offices, a quarry and a dynamite depot.
"This is a big project – there are many different stakeholders, many simultaneous activities and many dangers to day-to-day management," including curious wolves and bears, says Christian Guimond, who is in charge of the dam.
Four workers have already been killed, which forced the Hydro-Quebec Public Utility Office to suspend construction in 2017, while reviewing occupational safety practice.
There is now greater awareness of workers' risks, said Guimond.
From the top of the nearby mountain top, it points to a long tunnel tunnel and a jar built to redirect the raging river to begin with dam construction on a dry riverbed.
Bran will be completed in 2019.
Costs more than $ 6.5 billion ($ 4.9 billion), among the top 10 largest infrastructure projects currently underway in Canada, behind two nuclear power plant renovations, three more hydroelectric power plants, and a new Toronto subway line.
For the inhabitants of the region, the hydroelectric project was a mixed blessing, creating jobs in the distant and economic depressed area, but overwhelming the traditional hunting grounds of native indigenous peoples.
"I did not want it in the beginning, but I have to work … when I got my first payment, I changed that," said Gilbert Pietacho, supervisor and member of Innus of Mingan.
His father, who is also the head of a small tribe living in the reserve on the north coast of the Saint Lawrence River, is a fierce opponent of the project.
The boss has backed an ecological group, such as Greenpeace, which are "enormously destroying" huge hydroelectric power plants.
"It hurts me, it makes me sad to do what we do in nature," said Patricia Bacon, the 24-year-old Inn who came here to work in the cafeteria to pay for her studies.
"But times have changed – every house must have electricity now."
Export to USA
After being fully introduced in 2021, four power plants on the river will cumulatively generate 1,550 megawatts of electricity, enough to get the city or about 1.5 million households.
Since the 1970s, the hydro power plant supplied 90 percent of Quebec's required power.
The new provincial government of Quebec Francois Legault, with the support of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, promised to build even more dams after the Roma project was completed.
The goal is to export as much power to the United States, saying it would be "the greatest contribution Quebec could do to the planet."
Other provinces also have large hydro power plants on their way, such as Newfoundland's Muskrat Falls, Manitoba's Keeyask and British Columbia's Site C.
Neighboring Ontario, meanwhile, spends $ 25 billion for the reconstruction of two old nuclear power plants.
Pierre-Olivier Pineau, an energy expert at HEC University in Montreal, expressed his suspicions after visiting Romaine's project on the need for a larger number of power plants, pointing to the current redundant energy of Quebec.
"In the northeastern United States there is a great desire to decarbonize power generation in New England or New York, and there is a real opportunity for Quebec," he told AFP.
"La Romaine could provide this renewable energy".
However, more power lines that connect power plants to customers in the United States must be approved and built.
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