Here’s the text, in case the PPH paywall might prevent access. It is particularly clear on how the destruction of cooling currents is heating up the Gulf of Maine.
Guest column: CMP corridor poses risks to Gulf of Maine Frederick Cichocki Portland Press Herald October 22, 2021 www.pressherald.com/2021/10/22/guest-column-cmp-corridor-poses-risks-to-gulf-of-maine/
Now that proponents of the CMP corridor have shamelessly insulted our intelligence by throwing every absurd red herring and bugaboo in the book at Question 1 (“retroactive laws,” really?), it’s high time to address the elephant in the room — Hydro-Québec itself.
Hydro-Québec is not our friend. It’s an effectively nationalized (and overcapitalized) foreign corporation with the express mission and goal of selling more hydropower, no matter the fallout. The “Clean Energy Corridor” is just another means toward that end.
Hydro-Québec’s colossal flagship hydroelectric system in the eastern James Bay region (the LaGrande Project) is an ecological disaster and a catastrophe for the Cree and Inuit First Nations who live there. In its two construction phases (so far), Hydro-Québec has replumbed virtually the entire watershed (over 180,000 square miles) by diverting the flow of nine major rivers into several gigantic water storage reservoirs used to drive its electrical generators. LaGrande is currently about half-built. If (or when) completed, it would drown an area the size of Lake Ontario.
Fortunately, the final phase of LaGrande (the Great Whale Project), in the southern Hudson Bay drainage, has been in abeyance since 1992 when New York State boldly pulled the plug on its multibillion-dollar power deal with Hydro-Québec, largely over ecological concerns. This underscores the reality that Hydro-Québec’s generation capacity and profits depend heavily on the power export market, not domestic demand.
But, what does this have to do with us? The inconvenient truth is that whatever affects Hudson-James Bay eventually impacts the ecology and fisheries of the Gulf of Maine.
The Gulf of Maine has become one of the fastest-warming marine basins in the world, and it’s not just because of global climate change. In the past, the Gulf of Maine was kept comfortably cool and ecologically productive by the cold, Inshore Labrador Current, not to be confused with the separate and distinct, Offshore Labrador Current that arises in the high Arctic and stays far to the East. In contrast, and most importantly, the Inshore Labrador Current originates in Hudson-James Bay, issuing through the Hudson Strait, then veering south along the immediate Atlantic coast (receiving input along the way from Labrador rivers and the St. Lawrence), eventually to enter the Gulf of Maine. This is where Hydro-Québec comes into the picture.
Today, contrived water management of Hydro-Québec’s gargantuan James Bay LaGrande project (as well as others like Manic 5 and Churchill Falls), has largely reversed the seasonal river discharge pattern that once contributed to a much colder Inshore Labrador Current. Now, nearly half of the originally strong spring-summer river surge into James Bay is held back to fill Hydro-Québec’s massive reservoirs, while the previously low winter discharge has increased 60% in order to run the generators during peak electrical demand. The result, for technical reasons involving surface freshwater capping, water density (temperature and salinity) stratification, water column mixing and heat convection/advection, is a significantly warmer Inshore Labrador Current, year-round. Thus deprived of adequately cold water, the Gulf of Maine is warming and its ecology is changing. But, this is not a new revelation. For decades we’ve known how in principle the anti-seasonal timing of hydropower water releases could affect water temperature, etc., exactly what recent studies confirm.
The “No on 1” folks say we need the “Clean Energy Corridor” to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and “combat climate change” while at the same time cutting our energy costs and creating good-paying jobs. But this is just a lot of smoke and mirrors, with a hefty dose of greenwashing, and is not to be taken seriously. What is clear is that the CMP Corridor is specifically designed to aid and abet further expansion of Hydro-Québec’s export power market, and that is likely to put the Gulf of Maine, its fisheries and the livelihood of Maine fishermen, in even greater jeopardy. Every conscientious Mainer who really cares about Maine’s environment should be against the CMP Corridor and in favor of Question 1.
Frederick Cichocki lives in Wiscasset.
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