The first pole was raised in the NECEC hydropower corridor in The Forks on Feb. 9, 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A coalition of First Nation tribes in Quebec is filing suit against the provincial government to stop construction of a controversial powerline that would bring electricity from government-owned dams through Maine into the New England grid.

Mainers are familiar with the fight over the Central Maine Power, the initiated plan to build 145 miles of new and upgraded transmission line on this side of the border. On the Quebec side, a coalition of Indigenous tribes is suing to stop construction of about 64 miles of new transmission line needed there to connect the Hydro-Quebec system to Maine’s, near Jackman.

“We’re saying ‘enough is enough and you need to respect the rights of our peoples,'” said Lucien Wabanonik, a spokesperson for the coalition of five tribes, and a member of the Anishnabeg Nation.

The other tribes in the coalition are the Lac Simon, Kitcisakik, Wemotaci (Atilamekw Nation) and Pessamit (Innu Nation), representing about 7,000 people, Wabanonik said.

He said that while the Canadian transmission line would not directly cross tribal lands, more than a third of the dam system providing electricity for the project are on lands the tribes never ceded to the province. 

Wabanonik said that to serve the contracts, Hydro-Quebec is increasing production capacity at its reservoirs, likely further stressing ecosystems the tribes depend on for sustenance.

“And this is something that they’re investing for a few years now. But there was no consultation, no accommodation, nor compensation to our people because of the impacts,” Wabanonik said. 

In an email statement, a Hydro-Quebec spokesperson says the challenge is not valid because the transmission line route is far from tribal lands, and will not require changes in minimum or maximum reservoir levels. She also said “no new generation facilities are needed” to provide the added energy supply to the U.S.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.