Great Recycling and Northern Development Canal
The Great Recycling and Northern Development (GRAND) Canal of North America or GCNA is a water management proposal designed by Newfoundland engineer Thomas Kierans to alleviate North American freshwater shortage problems. The GCNA, which relies upon water management technologies used in the Zuider Zee / IJsselmeer and California Aqueduct, has been promoted by Kierans since 1959.
This plan arose as water quality issues threatened the Great Lakes and other vital areas in Canada and the United States. Kierans proposes that to avoid a water crisis from future droughts in Canada and the United States, in addition to water conservation, acceptable new fresh water sources must be found.
The premise of the GCNA is that fresh water run-off from natural precipitation will be collected in James Bay by means of a series of outflow-only, sea level dikes-constructed across the northern end of James Bay. These dikes will capture the fresh water before it mixes with the salty water of Hudson Bay and create a new source of fresh water the equivalent of 2.5 times the flow over Niagara Falls for Canada and the United States. In the second phase of the GRAND Canal proposal a percentage of the captured fresh water run-off would be transferred from the new freshwater reservoir in James Bay by a series of canals and pumping stations south to the Great Lakes. Once in the Great Lakes the new fresh water will be available to stabilize water levels in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence water basin and to be transferred by natural and man made canals and pumping stations to water deficit areas of Canada and the United States.
In US/Canada sixty percent of precipitation run-off occurs in Canada, which has only 10% of the total population of both nations.
The Canadian government further stated that exhaustive studies had indicated no additional sources of freshwater were available in Canada to replace the waters that would be removed from the Great Lakes by the proposed diversion. Kierans refuted the accuracy of the 1959 Canadian government's position and asserted that the GRAND Canal could provide additional fresh water to the Great Lakes.
 Similar projects
The Netherlands has recycled run-off precipitation since 1928 from a sea level, outflow-only, multi-use, freshwater dyke-enclosure in the former Zuider Zee Sea and newly created IJsselmeer fresh water lake. For 50 years, an expanding California Aqueduct with a 1200 m pump-lift, has recycled up to 115 m3/sec of northern river run-off from upstream of the sea in San Francisco Bay over 700 km southward in the San Joaquin River valley. This recycled fresh water has been used to create productive new farm and urban areas in former arid land. New recycled run-off proposals are now being considered throughout the world.
See also Siberian river reversal.
In his GCNA proposal, Kierans asserts that experience in the Netherlands demonstrates that a large new freshwater source can be created in Canada’s James Bay by collecting run-off from many adjacent river basins in a sea level, outflow-only dyke-enclosure. The project would capture and make available for recycling the entire outflows of the La Grande, Eastmain, Rupert, Broadback, Nottaway, Harricana, Moose, Albany, Kapiskau, Attawapiskat and Ekawan rivers. Moreover, Kierans claims that California’s Aqueduct proves that run-off to James Bay can be beneficially recycled long distances and over high elevations via the GRAND Canal. The GCNA would stabilize water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and improve water quality. The GRAND Canal system would also deliver new fresh water from the James Bay dyke-enclosure, via the Great Lakes, to many water deficit areas in Canada and the United States. The project was estimated in 1994 to cost C$100 billion to build and a further C$1 billion annually to operate, involving a string of nuclear reactors and hydroelectric dams to pump water uphill and into other waterbasins.
 Benefits and costs
Kierans argues recycling run-off from a dike-enclosure in Canada’s James Bay is not harmful and can bring both nations many useful benefits including:
- More fresh water for Canada and the United States to stabilize Great Lakes/St. Lawrence water levels and to relieve water shortages and droughts in western Canada and in the south-west U.S. and in particular to halt the depletion and start the replenishment of the Ogallala Aquifer (see water export);
- Improved fisheries and shipping in Hudson Bay. Oceanographer Professor Max Dunbar pointed out in his paper "Hudson Bay has too much fresh water" that as a result of its low salinity Hudson Bay currently "offers no possibilities for commercial fisheries". By recycling the fresh water run-off from James Bay south to the Great Lakes and away from Hudson's Bay the GRAND Canal will increase Hudson Bay’s now harmfully low salinity and consequently improve the commercial fisheries. Increasing the salinity of Hudson Bay will also have the benefit of reducing the freeze-over period during the winter and thereby lengthen the navigation season in Hudson Bay;
- Improved Great Lakes water quality due to the increased flows;
- Increased electricity available for alternate uses and lowered user cost of electricity by integrating water transfer energy needs with peak power demand;
- Enhanced flood controls;
- Improved forest fire protection for both nations;
- The construction and operation of the GCNA would provide economic stimulus to create employment and avoid recession. This would be similar to the economic stimulus that the Tennessee Valley Authority development and other public works had in the 1930s to start the recovery from the Great Depression.
According to Kierans, project organization to recycle run-off from James Bay Basin could be like that for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Capital costs for about 160 million users will exceed $100 billion. But, he claims, “before construction is completed, the total value of social, ecologic and economic benefits in Canada and the U.S. will surpass the project’s costs.”
The GRAND Canal proposal attracted the attention of former Québec premier Robert Bourassa and former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney. By 1985, Bourassa and several major engineering companies endorsed detailed GRAND Canal concept studies; however, these concept studies have not proceeded because, as Kierans says: "...some misinformed environmentalists and news media refuse to accept the proven Netherlands and California recycled run-off projects.” Further, they refuse to acknowledge the fundamental differences between NAWAPA's (North American Water and Power Alliance) harmful 'headwater diversion' and the environmentally friendly 'recycled run-off' of the GRAND Canal (see map and table below and Cadillac Desert). Unfortunately, their political influence continues to block Canadian government support for the urgently needed detailed studies of recycled run-off from James Bay. Until the Canadian Government supports such studies, drought and freshwater quality in Canada and the U.S. will continue to worsen.”
 Recycling vs. diversion
Below are two maps showing the contrasting North American drought relief proposals: on the left the GRAND Canal Proposal and on the right the NAWAPA Plan.
According to Kierans, the most important difference between the two proposals is that the GRAND Canal proposes that a new source of fresh water to be added to the system whereas with NAWAPA only existing water flows will be collected and diverted and no new water will be added. The GRAND Canal proposes that fresh water from a new James Bay reservoir be added to the Great Lakes and then transferred to the Canadian west and to the American Southwest. More fresh water will be available to North Americans.
With the NAWAPA diversionary plan, no new fresh water will be added to the system. NAWAPA proposes to dam mostly Canadian rivers to create massive new reservoirs and then divert the water to drought afflicted regions, mostly in the American Southwest. Only existing sources of fresh water will be collected and redirected. By necessity and by plan, NAWAPA will deprive some areas (mostly in Canada) that now have water, and flood other areas for reservoirs (also mostly in Canada) where at the present time no water flows. The ultimate recipients of the NAWAPA water will for the most part be in the American Southwest. Aside from being tremendously expensive to build and operate, NAWAPA will have massive and yet to be determined environmental impacts. Abundant animal and vegetable life will be damaged and destroyed. Populations of human and other species will have to be relocated.
The GRAND Canal proposes no such flooding or diversion. The new water will collected in existing reservoirs (James Bay and the Great Lakes) and flow along existing or new man-made and environmentally friendly waterways to existing reservoirs or aquifers. Nature will be respected and environmental impacts will be kept to a minimum.
Below is a table that, according to Kierans, compares the two proposals.
|The GRAND Canal||NAWAPA|
|1. Basic proposal: Recycling of fresh water at point where it would otherwise be lost to Hudson Bay/Arctic Ocean. New source of fresh water 2.5 X Niagara Falls transferred to American Southwest and Canadian West.||1. Basic proposal: Damming and diverting existing rivers from Alaska and Northern Canada to the American Southwest. No new water source created.|
|2. Use of existing reservoirs (James Bay, Great Lakes). No flooding to create new reservoirs.||2. Massive flooding of mountain valleys to create new reservoirs. Displacement of populations.|
|3. No diverting of water away from where it now flows.||3. Massive diversion and rerouting of rivers. Downstream locations deprived of water.|
|4. Cost: $100 billion repaid in 2 years. Cost of pumping water offset by peak power sales. As with the St. Lawrence Seaway, each country pays for part of construction on its own soil.||4. Cost: Enormous. Impossible to accurately estimate. Would required revamping of economy. Complex sharing of cost arrangements between Canada and U.S. necessary.|
|5. Technology (see Zuider Zee and the California Aqueduct) existing for over a hundred years. Construction could start tomorrow.||5. Technology. The size and complexity of the scheme makes the project many years away from being realizable. Delay of drought solution costly|
|6. Canada/U.S. international agreement: Simple scheme whereby Canada sells water from the newly created source and a renewable natural resource, to the United States for agreed upon price. Similar to the sale of electrical energy.||6. Canada/U.S. international agreement: Very complex, and unclear how Canada will be compensated for its water (if at all) – most of which will be shipped to the southwestern states. Negotiations could take decades.|
|7. Precedents. Many precedents, including NORAD and St. Lawrence Seaway, of this type of Canada/U.S. co-operation.||7. Precedents. No precedents for this type of co-operation where one country suffers environmentally for the almost exclusive benefit of the other.|
 Environmental concerns
Some potential environmental impacts of this proposal that would require study prior to its implementation include:
- Later ice formation, and earlier ice breakup outside the dike corresponding to an opposite change in the fresh waters inside;
- Diminished ecological productivity, possibly as far away as the Labrador Sea;
- Fewer nutrients being deposited into Hudson Bay during spring melts;
- Removal of James Bay's dampening effect on tidal and wind disturbances; and
- Adversely affected migratory bird populations.
The reduced freshwater flow into Hudson Bay will alter the salinity and stratification of the bay, possibly impacting primary production in Hudson Bay, along the Labrador coast, and as far away as the fishing grounds in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the Scotian Shelf, and Georges Bank.
If the James Bay dike is built, "[v]irtually all marine organisms would be destroyed [in the newly formed lake]". Freshwater species would move in, but northern reservoirs tend to fail to produce viable fisheries. The inter-basin connections would be ideal vectors for invasive species to invade new waters.
The construction of a dike across James Bay could negatively impact many mammal species, including ringed and bearded seals, walruses, and bowhead whales, as well as vulnerable populations of polar bears and beluga whales. The impacts would also affect many species of migratory bird, including lesser snow geese, Canada geese, black scoters, brants, American black ducks, northern pintails, mallards, American wigeons, Green-winged teals, greater scaups, common eiders, red knots, dunlins, black-bellied, American goldens, and semipalmated plovers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, sanderlings, many species of sandpipers, whimbrels, and marbled godwits, as well as the critically endangered Eskimo curlew.
 Social concerns
The project is expected to cost C$100 billion to implement, and a further C$1 billion a year to operate. Most of the water diverted would be exported to the U.S.
In addition, the shoreline communities of Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moosonee, Moose Factory (Ontario), Waskaganish, Eastmain, Wemindji and Chisasibi (Québec) would be forced to relocate.
 Conspiracy theory
In the 1990s, Canadian conspiracy theorists believed the "GRAND Canal" was part of a conspiracy to end Canadian sovereignty and force it into a union with the USA and Mexico. Conspiracy theorists believed that forces interested in a North American Union would agitate for Quebec separation, which would then touch off a Canadian civil war and plunge the Canadian economy into a depression. Impoverished Canadians would then look to the canal project and North American Union to revitalize the Canadian economy. Much of the scenario was lifted from Lansing Lamont's 1994 book Breakup: The Coming End of Canada and the Stakes for America.
- Great Lakes water diversion CityMayors.com
- DeCew Falls II Ontario Power Generation
- Spain approves river diversion for drought-hit Barcelona TerraDaily.com
- A brief history of the Great Recycling and Northern Development (Grand) Canal project Undercurrents
- Dunbar, Max (1993, May)  Centre for Climate and Global Change Research, McGill University
- The GRAND Canal Official Web Site: Proposal
- The GRAND Canal Official Website: Summary
- Bourassa, Robert (1985, May). Power From the North, Prentice Hall of Canada Ltd.
- The GRAND Canal Official Website: Introduction
- Inscription and Signature of Robert Bourassa on copy of Power from the North
- Milko, Robert (1986, December). Potential ecological effects of the proposed GRAND Canal diversion project on Hudson and James Bays. Arctic, 39(4): 316-325.
- Milko, Robert (1986, December). Potential ecological effects of the proposed GRAND Canal diversion project on Hudson and James Bays. Arctic, 39(4): 322.
- The planned destruction of Canada from the Social Credit Party of Canada newspaper the Michael Journal
- Usenet posting from 1996
- Amazon.com: Breakup: The Coming End of Canada and the Stakes for America: Lansing Lamont: Books
- The West By John Frederick Conway
- "Build your own conspiracy theory" Montreal Mirror
- * A Brief History of the Great Recycling and Northern Development (GRAND) Canal Project, Undercurrents
- GRAND Canal official website
- Hunter, David (1992) Interbasin water transfers after NAFTA: Is water a commodity or ecological resource? Center for International Environmental Law
- Milko, Robert (1986, December). Potential ecological effects of the proposed GRAND Canal diversion project on Hudson and James Bays. Arctic, 39(4): 316-325.
- Thomas Kierans ZoomInfo Bio
- Video interview of Thomas Kierans post on Globe and Mail web site.
- iReport of Michael Kierans re GRAND Canal prior to 99th birthday of Thomas Kierans