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The Globe and Mail

Ottawa delays controversial Quebec hydro project

The federal government has stepped in and delayed Quebec's $6.5-billion La Romaine hydro-electric complex, says a lawyer for Innu opposed to the project.

A key part of Quebec Premier Jean Charest's plan for northern development, the project east of Chicoutimi was scheduled to start coming online in four years. But Innu who say it will hurt their way of life have protested that the environmental assessments were inadequate and have been fighting the project in court.

On Thursday, Armand MacKenzie, who is acting as a lawyer for local Innu on the issue, said he had received word that the federal government would conduct its own assessment of the project's transmission lines.

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"This is major news because it brings further delays," Mr. MacKenzie said. "We're going to ask the federal government to do its own homework properly by doing a full assessment of the impact on Innu."

Hydro-Québec and the regional office of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in the province were unable to confirm the development immediately.

The Quebec government is refusing to comment. A spokeswoman for Quebec's Ministry Of Native Affairs, Hélène Sauvageau, said the province and Innu have set up a consultation process that began last August and will continue to work on it no matter what the federal government has decided.

" We won't comment on the federal government's involvement. We don't have the necessary information," Ms. Sauvageau said.

Any delay would be a blow to the Mr. Charest's vision for development in 1.2 million square kilometres of remote land.

Among the projects is the controversial 1550-megawatt power plant on the La Romaine River. It is projected to be capable of producing electricity to power 450,000 households, boosting the province's export capacity to the United States.

With a report from Rhéal Séguin in Quebec

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