Knowledge & Solutions
The Arctic Eider Society is working to compile and disseminate traditional and scientific knowledge about sea ice ecosystems in a meaningful and accessible way to communities, stakeholders and the general public. This section of our website is an ongoing project and we are currently developing an Interactive Knowledge Mapping Platform (IK-MAP) that will facilitate communicating this knowledge through interactive maps and timelines. Our approach to integrating and using different forms of knowledge and content can be summarized in the following Knowledge to Action schematic:
Over the last 20 years, community-driven research and ground-breaking Traditional Knowledge programs like Voices from the Bay have identified major knowledge gaps and ongoing changes to local ecosystems as key priorities to address for the region. Despite long-standing concerns expressed by Inuit and Cree communities, many of these issues remain unaddressed.
The following “Knowledge” and “Solutions” sections provide a working synopsis of knowledge acquired to date including environmental impacts of hydroelectric developments on sea ice ecosystems and potential solutions to address cumulative impacts in east Hudson Bay. Stay tuned for updates on these sections which are under ongoing development.
Cumulative Impacts of Hydroelectric Projects on Sea Ice Ecosystems
When compared to coal- and diesel-generated power, hydroelectricity has often been considered a cleaner alternative in terms of its perceived minimal environmental impacts. Hydroelectric projects in Canada have involved the damming and diversion of many rivers in order to power major cities, particularly in eastern North America. The flow patterns of many Canadian river systems are now largely driven by electricity demands rather than the natural hydrological cycle. Turning on a light switch or thermostat in New York, Quebec or Manitoba can have a cascade of impacts on rivers, the marine environment of Hudson Bay, and could even affect ocean currents and climate patterns around the globe.
INDIVIDUAL IMPACTS ON THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT
As documented in the book Voices from the Bay, Inuit and Cree have observed a number of changes in sea ice and ocean habitats in Hudson Bay, following the rise of hydroelectric development projects. These changes have affected the marine ecosystem, climate, wildlife and the way of life of Aboriginal communities in this unique and sensitive environment. These observations include:
Seasonality: In natural watersheds, warm spring weather causes snow to melt and increases water flowing down rivers and into the sea. This seasonal cycle of freshwater inputs into the ocean is important for ocean circulation and the life cycle of marine organisms. The hydroelectric industry currently collects and stores this springtime run-off water in reservoirs so that it can be released through turbines in order to meet high r energy demands for heating homes in the winter. This practice effectively reverses the seasonal flow of freshwater from rivers into Hudson Bay.
Ocean Currents: In addition to tides and wind, the outflow of water from rivers is a major factor driving ocean currents. Inuit across multiple communities in Hudson Bay have observed that ocean currents are slowing down along the entire east coast of Hudson Bay to the Hudson Straight.
Ocean Mixing: Freshwater plumes from rivers spread much more extensively under a layer of sea ice than in open water, affecting the way surface freshwater transports and mixes with sea water.
Ice Melt: When snow melts in the spring causing increased river flow, this water is usually very cold when it enters the ocean. Freshwater that has been trapped in reservoirs during the summer months is warmer when it is dumped into Hudson Bay, which can affect the normal freezing and thawing patterns of sea ice in the fall and spring, respectively. This can result in less sea ice at certain times of the years as warmer water may delay ice formation during the fall, or cause it to melt more quickly during the spring.
Ice Freeze: In contrast, freshwater freezes much quicker and at warmer temperatures than salt water, which is why lakes freeze before the ocean in the fall. Salt water normally present on the surface in mid-winter is now replaced by freshwater from reservoirs. This can cause extensive areas to suddenly freeze over, which can trap wildlife and cut off their access to open water feeding grounds and habitat.
Ice Structure: Frozen freshwater has a different structure than frozen salt water. Freshwater ice tends to fracture or shatter, whereas salt water ice is less brittle and more elastic, causing it to break differently and under different pressures.
CUMULATIVE IMPACTS ON THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT
When researchers examine cumulative impacts, they are trying to determine how the impacts of multiple environmental factors, like salinity and ocean currents, or multiple industrial developments, like hydro dams, combine to have larger overall impacts on an ecosystem. In some cases, independent factors may interact so that the cumulative impacts are greater than the independent factors would be on their own. Environmental impact reviews have called for studies to assess the cumulative impacts of hydroelectric production on the marine environment of Hudson Bay, but these have yet to be conducted. Some of the cumulative impacts associated with hydroelectric operations can include:
Changing Sea Ice Dynamics
The individual impacts described above interact with each other in complex ways to influence the dynamics of sea ice ecosystems. During certain times of year, some areas may experience a decrease in sea ice due to warm water input, while at other times of the year, areas with decreased salinity can freeze up quickly and to a greater extent than usual, often negatively affecting wildlife habitats. These changing and unpredictable conditions are challenging for wildlife including seals, whales, eider ducks and polar bears, and for the Inuit and Cree that rely on these species for food and who depend on safe ice conditions for travel. Major entrapments and die-offs of eider ducks and belugas serve as an indicator of the ecosystem changes happening in the marine environment of Hudson Bay.
Many benthic invertebrates, fish, and other species have specific tolerances for salinity levels and are affected by changes to the marine environment. For example, certain species of phytoplankton are better adapted to freshwater than saltwater conditions. To date, there have been no in-depth studies to determine how the cumulative changes in salinity levels, currents, and sea ice have impacted the local marine organisms of Hudson Bay.
Impacts on Hunting
“Hunters have noticed that seals sink more than they used to. When we shoot seals, we often lose them these days.” - Simeonie Kavik
The phenomenon of sinking seals is another example of a cumulative impact. Based on their body fat composition, seals have different buoyancy in fresh water than in salt water. Fresh water from hydroelectric dams can cause hunters to lose their catch when the seal sinks and come to rest several meters below the surface, underneath a freshwater plume. Less predictable sea ice conditions also affect the safety of hunters travelling to obtain food or their communities.
Global Climate Concerns
While Inuit have observed that currents are slowing down in Hudson Bay, scientists have begun to notice that the Labrador Current itself is also freshening and slowing down. Cold salty water sinks because it is denser and heavier than warm freshwater. As the cold salty Labrador Current sinks and heads south, it causes the warm fresher water of the Gulf Stream to head north causing Europe’s mild climate.
This process of cold salty water sinking - also called thermohaline circulation - acts like a giant conveyor belt circulating the Earth’s oceans and driving global climate. Increased melt from glaciers and multi-year sea ice in the summer are also increasing the amount of freshwater in the Labrador Current. Warm freshwater released from hydro reservoirs during the winter could be exacerbating this problem, changing the ocean’s natural pattern of cooling and becoming more salty after ice formation in the winter. Additional studies are required to understand the long-term impacts, but it has already been established that the freshening and stalling of the Labrador Current has caused previous rapid climate shifts and even extended major ice ages.
The dynamics of the natural water cycle are being changed by hydroelectric projects all over the world, and the role of these cumulative effects on ocean circulation and climate require urgent and substantial research.
The Arctic Eider Society works with local communities to better understand these issues, to disseminate this information to the broader public, and to support the development of water management solutions that work with the seasons of the hydrological cycle. We are optimistic that there are tangible ways to move forward in addressing these issues, which you can read about on the “Solutions” tab.
History of Developments and Advocacy
The Arctic Eider Society has been working to compile historical timelines of hydroelectric developments, Traditional Knowledge and actions to address these issues, particularly in east Hudson Bay. This section will eventually be developed into a timeline on our Interactive Knowledge Mapping Platform (IK-MAP). In the meantime, the following PDF document provides a compilation of these efforts to date. Please note that this is a working draft document and we encourage individuals to contact us with feedback, revisions, and additional points for inclusion.
The following section is a working compilation of scientific and traditional knowledge publications on the marine ecosystem of Hudson Bay, with a particular focus on east Hudson Bay. Please contact us to provide additional references for inclusion.
Beaulieu, N. And M. Allard. 2003. Impact of climate change on an emerging coastline affected by discontinuous permafrost: Manitounuk Strait, northern Quebec. Can J. Earth Sci. 40: 1393-1404.
Cota, G., L. Legendre, M. Gosselin and R.G. Ingram. 1991. Environmental control of production at the seasonal sea ice- water interface: dominant scales of physical and biological variability. J. Marine Systems 2: 257-277.
Dery, S.J., E.F. Wood. 2004. Teleconnection between the Arctic Oscillation and Hudson Bay river discharge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31: L18205, doi:10.1029/2004GL020729
Dery, S.J., Stieglitz, M. McKenna, E.C., Wood, E.F. 2005. Characteristics and trends of river discharge into Hudson, James and Ungava Bays, 1964-2000. Journal of Climate 18:2540-2557.
Dionne, Jean-Claude. 1980. An outline of the eastern James Bay coastal environments. (In The Coastline of Canada, S.B. McCann, ed., Geol Survey Can paper 80-10)
English, Sarah. 2008. Summary report on the Hudson bay bioregion: a state of the environment as of 1995. DFO Oceans Program and Nunavuummi Tasiujarjuamiuguqatigiit Katutjiqatigiingit (NTK): Winnipeg. 37p
Fortier, L., M. Gilbert, D. Ponton, L. Legendre and R.G. Ingram. 1996. Impact of fresh water on a coastal ecosystem under seasonal sea ice. III. Larval fish feeding and growth. J. Marine Systems 7:251-265.
Gagnon, A. And W. Gough. 2005. Climate change scenarios for the Hudson Bay region: an intermodel comparison. Climate Change 69: 269-297.
Gough, W. And E. Wolfe. 2001. Climate change scenarios for Hudson Bay, Canada, from general circulation models. Arctic. 54: 142-148.
Gilchrist, H. G. and Robertson, G. J. 1999. Population trends of gulls and Arctic terns nesting in the Belcher Islands, Nunavut. Arctic 52, 325-331.
Gilchrist, H. G. and Robertson, G. J. 2000. Observations of marine birds and mammals wintering at polynyas and ice edges in the Belcher Islands, Nunavut, Canada. Arctic 53, 61-68.
Gilchrist, H.G., Mallory, M.L. and Merkel, F.R. 2005. Can Local Ecological Knowledge contribute to wildlife management?: Case Studies of migratiory birds. Ecology and Society 10:20 [online].
Gilchrist, H.G., J.P. Heath, L. Arragutainaq, et al. (2006). Combining scientific and local knowledge to study common eider ducks wintering in Hudson Bay In: Riewe, R. and Oakes, J. [Eds.] Climate Change: Linking Traditional and Scientific Knowledge. Aboriginal Issues Press, Univ. Manitoba. pp 284-303.
Gilchrist, H. G. and Mallory, M. L. 2007. Comparing Expert-Based Science With Local Ecological Knowledge: What Are We Afraid Of? Ecology and Society [12: online]
Gillian et. al. with J.P. Heath & R. Brook. (2006)The value of integrating Traditional, Local and Scientific Knowledge. In: Riewe, R. and Oakes, J. [Eds.] Climate Change: Linking Traditional and Scientific Knowledge. Aboriginal Issues Press, Univ.Manitoba
Hamilton, A.L., and Whittaker, R. 2005. An assessment of the extent to which the Environmental Impact Statement for the Eastmain-1-A Powerhouse and Rupert Diversion meets the requirements outlined in the Directives for the Preparation of the Impact Statement for the Eastmain-1-A and Rupert Diversion Project. Prepared on behalf of and in collaboration with: Nunavuummi Tasiujarjuamiuguqatigiit Katutjiqatigiingit/Nunavut Hudson Bay Inter-Agency Working Group (NTK) For Phase 1 of the Review Panel (Conformity Analysis) for the Eastmain-1-A and Rupert Diversion Project. Variously paginated.
Hammill, M.O., Lesage, V.,Gosselin, J.-F., Bourdages, H., de March, B.G.E., and Kingsley, M.C.S.. 2004. Changes in abundance of northern Quebec (Nunavik) beluga. Arctic 57:183-195.
Harvey, M., Starr, M., Therriault, J.-C., Saucier, F. and Gosselin, M. 2006. MERICA-Nord Program: Monitoring and research in the Hudson Bay complex. AZMP Bulletin 5: 27-32.
Heath, J.P., H.G. Gilchrist & R.C. Ydenberg (2006). Regulation of stroke patterns and swim speed across a range of current velocities: diving by Common Eiders wintering in polynyas in the Canadian arctic. Journal of Experimental Biology 209, 3974-3983
Heath, J.P. (2007) Diving and foraging by common eiders wintering in the Canadian arctic: managing energy at multiple time scales. Ph.D. Thesis, Simon Fraser University.
Heath, J.P., H.G. Gilchrist & R.C. Ydenberg (2007). Can diving models predict patterns of foraging behaviour? Diving by Common Eiders in an arctic polynya. Animal Behaviour 73:877-884.
Heath, J.P. & H.G.Gilchrist (2010) When foraging becomes unprofitable: energetics of diving in tidal currents by common eiders wintering in the Arctic. Marine Ecology Progress Series 403:279-290.
Heath, J.P, H.G. Gilchrist & R.C. Ydenberg. (2010) Interactions between rate processes with different time scales explain counter-intuitive foraging patterns of arctic wintering eiders. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Science 277: 3179-3186. [Cover Feature]
Henri, D. H., H. G. Gilchrist, and E. Peacock. 2010. Understanding and managing wildlife in Hudson Bay under a changing climate: some recent contributions from Inuit and Cree ecological knowledge. In: A little less Arctic: changes to top predators in the world’s largest Nordic inland sea, Hudson Bay (S. Ferguson, L. Loseto and M. Mallory, eds.). Springer-Verlag, The Netherlands.
Hydro-Quebec. 2002. La panache de La Grande Riviere. Rapport synthese pour la periode 1987-2000.73 p. + annexe
Ingram, R.G. and P. Larouche. 1987. Changes in the underice characteristics of the La Grande River plume due to discharge variations. Atmosphere-Ocean. 25(3): 242-250
Ingram, R. Grant and S. Prinsenberg. 1998. Coastal oceanography of Hudson Bay and surrounding eastern Canadian Arctic waters. In “The Sea” (A. Robinson and K. Brink, eds.), vol. 11, p. 835-861. J. Wiley, New York.
Ingram, R.G., J. Wang, C.Lin, L.Fortier and L. Legendre. 1996. Impact of fresh water on a coastal ecosystem under seasonal sea ice. I. Interannual variability and predicted global change effects on river plumes and sea ice. J. Marine Systems 7: 221-231.
Joly, S, Senneville, S. Caya, D & Saucier, F.J. 2011. Sensitivity of Hudson Bay Sea ice and ocean climate to atmospheric temperature forcing. Climate Dynamics 36: 1835-1849.
Legendre, L., B. Robineau, M. Gosselin, C. Michel, R.G. Ingram, J.C. Therriault, S. Demers, D. Monti and L. Fortier. 1996. Impact of fresh water on a coastal ecosystem under seasonal sea ice. II. Production and export of microalgae. J. Marine Systems 7: 233-250.
Lepage, S. and R.G. Ingram. 1986. Salinity intrusion in the Eastmain River estuary following a major reduction of freshwater input. J. Geophys. Res. 91, C1: 909-915
Lepage, S. and R. G. Ingram. 1988. Estuarine response to a freshwater pulse. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Sci. 26: 657- 667.
Lepage, S. and R.G. Ingram. 1991. Variation of upper layer dynamics during breakup of the seasonal ice cover in Hudson Bay. J. Geophys. Res. 96, 12711-12724.
Mallory, M. L., A. J. Gaston, H. G. Gilchrist, G. J. Robertson, and B. L. Braune. 2010. Effects of climate change, altered sea-ice distribution and seasonal phenology on marine birds. In: A little less Arctic: changes to top predators in the world’s largest Nordic inland sea, Hudson Bay (S. Ferguson, L. Loseto and M. Mallory, eds.). Springer-Verlag, The Netherlands.
Mallory, M. L., H. G. Gilchrist, and J. Akearok. 2006. Can we establish baseline local ecological knowledge on wildlife populations? (R. Riewe and J. Oakes, eds.) Aboriginal Issues Press. Pp. 24-33.
Mallory, M. L., Gilchrist, H. G., Braune, B. M., and Gaston, A. J. 2006. Marine birds as indicators of Arctic marine ecosystem health: Linking the Northern Ecosystem Initiative to long-term studies. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 113, 31-48.
McDonald, M., Arragutainaq, L., and Novalinga, Z. 1997. Voices from the Bay: traditional ecological knowledge of Inuit and Cree in the Hudson Bay bioregion. Canadian Arctic Resources Committee; Environmental Committee of Municipality of Sanikiluaq, Ottawa, ON. xiii + 98 p.
McDonald, M and B. Fleming. 1990. Development of a community based eider down industry in Sanikiluaq: resource management and business strategies. Sanikiluaq: Municipality of Sanikiluaq 48 pp + appendices
Messier, D., R. G. Ingram, and D. Roy, 1986: Physical and biological modifications in response to La Grande hydroelectric complex. Canadian Inland Seas, I. P. Martini, Ed., Elsevier, 403–424.
Municipality of Sanikiluaq & Nunavuummi Tasiujarjuamiuguqatigiit Katutjiqatigiingit (NTK). 2008. Community environmental monitoring systems workshop summary report. Miriam Fleming & Associates: Timmins. 35 pp
Myers, R. A., S. A. Akenhead, and K. Drinkwater, 1990: The influence of Hudson Bay runoff and ice-melt on the salinity of the inner Newfoundland Shelf. Atmos.–Ocean, 28, 241–256.
Mysak, L.A., R.G. Ingram, J. Wang and A. van der Baaren. 1996. Anomalous sea-ice extent in Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay and the Labrador Sea during three simultaneous NAO and ENSO episodes of 1972/73, 1982/83 and 1991/92. Atmosphere-Ocean 34: 313-343.
Nunavuummi Tasiujarjuamiuguqatigiit Katutjiqatigiingit (NTK). 2008. A life vest for Hudson Bay’s Drifting Stewardship. Arctic. Vol 61, Suppl.1 (2008) P.35-47
Prinsenberg, S.J. 1980. Man-made changes in the freshwater input rates of Hudson and James Bay. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37: 1101-1110.
Prinsenberg, S.J. 1984. Freshwater contents and heat budgets of James Bay and Hudson Bay. Cont. Shelf. Res. 3:191-200.
Prinsenberg, S.J. 1986: The circulation pattern and current structure of Hudson Bay. Canadian Inland Seas, I. P. Martini, Ed., Elsevier, 187–204.
Robertson, G.J. and Gilchrist, H.G. 1998. Evidence of population declines among common eiders breeding in the Belcher Islands, Northwest Territories. Arctic 51: 378-385.
Robertson, G., Reed, A., and Gilchrist, H. G. 2001. Clutch, egg and body variation among Common Eiders, Somateria mollissima sedentaria, breeding in Hudson Bay. Polar Research 20, 1-10.
Rosenberg, D.M., McCully, P., Pringle, C.M. 2000. Global-scale environmental effects of hydrological alterations: introduction (special issue devoted to hydrological alterations. Bioscience, 50:746-751.
Saucier, F., and J. Dionne, 1998: A 3-D coupled ice-ocean model applied to Hudson Bay, Canada: The seasonal cycle and time-dependent climate response to atmospheric forcing and runoff. J. Geophys. Res., 103 (C12), 27 689–27 705.
Saucier, F.J., Senneville, S. Prinsenberg, S., Roy, F., Smith, G., Gachon, P., Caya, D., Laprise, R. 2004. Modelling the sea ice-ocean seasonal cycle in Hudson Bay, Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait, Canada. Climate Dynamics 23:303-326.
Société Makivik, Centre d’études Nordiques, Université Laval. 1992. Contaminants in the Marine Environment of Nunavik: Proceedings of the Conference, Montréal, September 12-14, 1990. Collection Nordicana No. 56. Centre d’études Nordiques: Laval. 102 pp.
Stewart, D.B. 2005. Preliminary planning for marine environmental monitoring at Sanikiluaq, Nunavut. Prepared by Arctic Biological Consultants, Winnipeg for the Municipality of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut. iv + 71 p.
Stewart, D.B. and A.L. Hamilton. 2007. Outcomes of the Community environmental Monitoring Systems (CEMS) Workshop at Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, 22-26 January 2007. Arctic Biological Consultants: Winnipeg. 28 pp
Stewart, D.B. and Lockhart, W.L. 2005. An overview of the Hudson Bay marine ecosystem. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2586: vi + 487 p.
Tesch, R. 1990. Qualitative research: analysis types
Veilleux, L., R.G. Ingram and A. van der Baaren. 1992. Descriptive oceanography of Rupert Bay. Arctic 45: 258-268
Wang, J., L.A. Mysak and R.G. Ingram. 1994. Interannual variability of sea ice cover in the Hudson Bay-Baffin Bay-Labrador Sea region. Atmosphere-Ocean 32: 421-447.
Stewardship and a Hudson Bay Consortium
Hudson Bay is Canada’s largest drainage basin, providing critical habitat for wildlife and an important region for economic development. Despite this, it remains one of the least funded and understudied regions of Canada and the only large marine system still lacking an integrated governance structure.
Conditions and recommendations made by Federal and Provincial review panels during the environmental assessment process for the Rupert River Eastmain-1A diversion called for the formation of a consortium for Hudson Bay towards addressing cumulative impacts. To date, this has not materialized due in part to inter-jurisdictional challenges and a lack of cross-regional funding. To address these stewardship gaps and leverage the required cumulative impact studies, The Arctic Eider Society in partnership with the Hudson Bay Inland Sea Initiative has now taken the lead in forming a Hudson Bay Consortium.
For additional information and to get involved in our inaugural planning meeting in Dec 2014 please visit our new website for the Hudson Bay Consortium
Many new hydroelectric projects in Canada are being constructed in order to sell energy across the border into the United States and international policy is therefore an increasingly important consideration for mitigating impacts on the marine ecosystem. Many of the operational criteria required for dams in the US are not applied to Canadian dams that export electricity into the US. While the US is working to develop renewable energy solutions and removing dams across the US, they are increasing imports of hydroelectricity from Canada, effectively exporting the “externalities” including environmental justice issues to Canada where environmental legislation for hydroelectric projects is much weaker.
Projects such as the Champlain Hudson Power Express and the New England ‘Clean’ Power Link would bring 2000 Megawatts from Quebec to New York and Vermont respectively. Developers have been ’greenwashing’ these projects as clean energy without considering the cumulative impacts that we have been working so hard to address. Like other pipelines, these projects require permits and environmental review before they are approved and this process along with public support in the US could be used to leverage implementing water management policies in Canada that help reduce impacts on sea ice ecosystems.
With your support, the Arctic Eider Society ran an outreach campaign Break the Ice for Arctic Wildlife and visited New York City in November 2013, working with local environmental groups to raise awareness about the impacts of hydroelectricity among consumers of electricity from these projects. Strong relationships and ideas for moving forward were developed and continue to flourish. We are excited to announce that our executive director Dr. Joel Heath has recently been awarded a Fulbright Scholar position as Visiting Chair in Arctic Studies at the University of Washington, providing an ideal opportunity to follow up with these ideas and momentum.Read our recent news article on the Fulbright Chair in Arctic Studies position
Do you live in a region of eastern Canada or the US powered by northern hydroelectric projects? A letter to your local representatives could help raise awareness about the need to improve water management policies and to provide environmental stewardship for Hudson Bay. Consider signing up to host a screening of our award winning film People of a Feather in your community, and spread the word to help us address these issues.
Water management and Energy Solutions
STRATEGIES FOR WORKING WITH THE SEASONS OF THE HYDROLOGICAL CYCLE
The current approach to hydroelectricity involves building massive infrastructure, diverting rivers and storing water as potential energy behind dams. Water is now released into rivers when energy is required, primarily during the cold winter months, but this is exactly opposite to the natural hydrological cycle. Capturing energy in phase with the hydrological cycle could be achieved by storing and distributing hydropower in new ways. The following is a working draft of strategies and next steps that could help existing hydroelectric projects to work more closely with the timing of the hydrological cycle in order to address cumulative impacts on sea ice ecosystems. We encourage feedback, suggestions and collaboration with interested organizations, policy makers and industry.
1. Open Access
Greater access to hydrological and electricity distribution data will help industry and researchers take a more solutions-oriented research and development perspective. Open access would allow links to be established between industry data and environmental research conducted by communities, organizations, governments and universities, which would be instrumental in evaluating energy solutions for mitigating impacts on hydrology and sea ice ecosystems. Some regions have made their hydrological and electricity data available to the public, whereas hydrological data in Quebec is not readily available. Many concerns have been also raised about a lack of transparency on development underway on the Lower Churchill River in Labrador.
2. Reducing Mid-Winter Spikes
An important first step to reducing impacts would be to address mid-winter spikes in electricity demands, which negatively impact sea ice environments by releasing large plumes of freshwater into critical sea ice habitats at the wrong time of year. Energy storage technologies including pumped hydro, compressed air and possibly even emerging advances in hydrogen fuel storage could mitigate the impacts of electricity spikes on river flow regimes. This would allow the hydroelectric industry to deliver power during peak demands associated with mid-winter temperature drops without releasing extensive freshwater plumes onto sea ice ecosystems. This would be a first step towards developing infrastructure that allows the storage and distribution of hydroelectric energy in a manner that works with the timing of the hydrological cycle.
3. Coordinating the Timing of Supply and Demand
Different regions experience different seasonal and circadian rhythms in electricity demands. Various forms of local energy generation and infrastructure also influence when electricity is exported or imported, as well as its value. By incorporating the hydrological cycle as a parameter in models of energy distribution, the hydroelectric industry help reduce demand from fossil fuel fired plants during critical periods of the day or seasonally.
For example, supplying summer air conditioning demands in major centres such as Toronto and New York through hydroelectricity could also provide distribution strategies that are closer in timing to spring and summer peaks in river run-off. Similarly, competitive rates or credits could also be provided for timing peaks in aluminum smelting or other energy intensive industries with spring run-off.
4. New Technologies and Clean Energy Exchange
Many communities in direct proximity to hydroelectric projects still burn diesel fuel to produce electricity. This is because of the costs of building transmission wires to small remote northern communities are not economical. However, clean energy stored as compressed air or hydrogen fuel could be more easily shipped to remote communities. Government incentives and currencies such as carbon credits could help develop these technologies and infrastructure. Iceland has already demonstrated that hydrogen fuel produced from hydroelectricity projects can be used to power shipping. Shipping also peaks in spring and summer in many regions, coinciding with spring run-off of rivers. This approach could further help reduce fossil fuel reliance and address chronic oil spills from bilge pumps along marine shipping lanes. This could be a particularly effective way to address concerns about increased shipping in sensitive Arctic regions.
5. Upgrading Infrastructure and Long Term Strategies
Upgrading existing hydroelectric infrastructure to incorporate alternative storage and distribution technologies could provide long term economic benefits. Increasing flexibility in the storage and distribution of hydroelectricity will provide adaptability to fluctuating energy markets. Upgrading electricity distribution grids will be an important part of new distribution strategies.
Close collaboration between industries, communities, researchers and policy makers will be required to move forward with new ways of distributing and storing energy. Our goal is to catalyze ideas and facilitate the implementation of innovative solutions that work with the seasonal timing of the hydrological cycle. In doing so, existing utilities and hydroelectric complexes could reduce their environmental impacts while facilitating their transition into leaders of new energy technologies.