Romaine River 101

Charlie's Falls

The Romaine is one of Quebec’s longest and wildest rivers. Originating in the highlands near the Labrador border, it spills and thrashes its way over a five-hundred kilometer course, traversing wetlands and dense boreal forest before emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the site of the Mingan Archipelago National Park.

Characterized by its sheer falls and sparkling rapids, it is a destination of choice for campers, paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts. The Romaine drains a territory which is noted for its biodiversity, including woodland caribou, black bears, wolverines and other large mammals, while the waters of the river teem with salmon and other fish species, including four-foot eels!
To paddlers, trappers, and other visitors, the Romaine watershed offers a quintessential Canadian landscape with its granite shores and rocky shelves requiring multiple portages; with its expanses of dark water, horizons of conifers, black flies in summer and immaculate white spaces traversable by snowshoe five months out of the year. In season, the forest floor is home to a striking array of flowering plants.

At the base of the Grandes Chutes in winter.

Some three hundred meters wide near its mouth, the Romaine ranks among Quebec’s seventeen largest rivers (calculated by rate of flow), and of these it would become the fifteenth to be dammed or diverted for the purposes of power generation. As it stands, the Romaine remains the only major river in Quebec accessible by road that has not been spoiled by dams.

Since 2009, state utility Hydro Quebec has been implementing an $8.5 billion,  decade-long megaproject on the Romaine River that, when finished, would consist of four dams and reservoirs, flooding 279 square kilometers of territory. The finished project would also involve drying the riverbed along two streches, including the important salmon grounds located directly under the Grandes Chutes.
The consequences of this type of project also include mercury pollution, loss of biodiversity through habitat fragmentation, and more. Among other effects, as some of the river’s countless rapids are swallowed up by reservoirs, the rate at which oxygen can be disolved into the water will be reduced sharply. The waters from the Romaine, which empty into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, will therefore be less able to sustain life, and the quality of the entire food chain, including the region’s commercial fisheries will suffer.

Wolverine tracks photographed by our friend Steve in the upper Romaine!

In view of the destruction that has been visited by previous hydroelectric projects on other parts of Quebec, Alliance Romaine is not willing to wait and see what the effects of damming the Romaine will be on the ground. To safeguard the future of this unique river, we have launched a political battle designed to expose the issues to the general public, to apply pressure on our elected officials, and to prompt our current or future government to scrap this harmful and expensive project.

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