The village was founded in 1901 and soon saw success in the pulp mill created by Damase Jalbert at the base of the Ouiatchouan Falls. However, the success was fleeting as the abrupt closure of the mill in 1927 led the desertion of the entire village.
It became a park in 1960. With over 70 original abandoned buildings, Val-Jalbert has been described as the best-preserved ghost town in Canada.
The village was founded by Damase Jalbert (1842-1904) which in 1901 also created the Ouiatchouan Pulp Company; that same year the village was first named Saint-Georges-de-Ouiatchouan, after the river that runs through it . It was later renamed Val-Jalbert in 1913 by the Chicoutimi Pulp Company in honor of its founder.
Val-Jalbert is a former village of Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec which is today a regional tourist attraction (a ghost town).
Situated between the borders of the municipalities of Chambord and Roberval, it was founded in 1901 when Damase Jalbert from Lac-Bouchette built a pulp and paper mill. The location was ideal since the energy required to operate the machinery could be produced by the two waterfalls of the Ouiatchouan river, respectively 72 and 35 metres in height.
In 1904, following the death of Mr. Jalbert, the company was bought by Americans; then in 1909 it became the property of the Chicoutimi Pulp Company. Almost 10 years later, the Spanish Flu wreaked havoc among its small population.
In 1927, the Quebec Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd., which owned the plant for only a year, ceased all activities due to the lower demand for non-transformed mechanical pulp.
The site was abandoned until 1960, when the then Tourism office took charge, and turned it into a tourist attraction. It later became a historic site on August 8, 1996 .
In 1996, the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications decided to designate it as a heritage site and classify it as such. Interestingly, this ranking is the highest degree that the Ministry may grant a site.
The site now falls under the municipality of Chambord.
The hydroelectric dam project on the Ouiatchouan river
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (December 2013)|
In October 2009, the "Energy Community Society of Lac St-Jean" announced plans to build an 18.3 megawatt hydroelectric plant near the historic mill, and build a dam upstream of the Ouiatchouan falls. The “Bureau of Environmental Public Hearings” (BAPE) heard concerns of the citizens of Roberval and surrounding areas during the months of March and April 2012. 75% of the interventions submitted were against the dam project. Nevertheless, the BAPE gave a favourable report to the developer on July 13, 2012.
The historical village of Val-Jalbert is the second most visited tourist attraction in the Lac St-Jean region after the zoo of St-Félicien. The majority of tourists go to Val-Jalbert to see its spectacular waterfall. Meanwhile, the developer is moving forward with the project that promises to irrevocably distort the renowned waterfall, while promising a mere aesthetic flow of 7 m3 / s during daytime operational hours, which is half the average rate at which summer tourists are accustomed to. Even worse, at night and during the six winter months, the developer only ensures a mere ecological flow of 0.3 m3 / s, which is equivalent to a standard domestic hot water tank, which is hardly acceptable from an ecological point of view, as it would have adverse effects on the surrounding ecosystem.
There is also an apparent conflict of interest, for example, the involvement of the consulting engineering firm BPR (under scrutiny for questionable practices by the Charbonneau Commission, notably for the scandal of water meters in Montreal). For the Val-Jalbert file, BPR had been mandated to study the environmental impact of the project. Then, after submitting a favorable report, BPR received an $ 800,000 contract to draft the specifications and plans for the future mini-hydroelectric power station. To this, also consider that BPR said it was impossible to study the fish fauna of the “middle reach” (the most impacted portion of the river which will be dried-up; meanwhile people have fished there for decades. The exclusion of this important part of the Ouiatchouan river rich in aquatic life (according to several fishermen) should nullify the results of the impact study.
In September 2012, the Coalition to Safeguard Ouiatchouan Val-Jalbert (CSOV), in collaboration with the Fondation Rivières, decided to challenge the merits of this project, and make every effort to preserve the Ouiatchouan river, its falls, and ensure that the integrity of the heritage site of Val-Jalbert is respected.
December 5, 2012. The Quebec Council of Ministers adopted the decree authorizing the construction of the hydroelectric station and dam on the historic site of Val-Jalbert, despite a very unfavourable opinion of the Heritage Council which raised major shortcomings which were to be reviewed. Firstly, the social acceptability numbers being insufficient for a project of this magnitude (and essential in most democratic processes, and also outlined in the charters of the (RCM) of Domaine-du-Roy and Heritage Council). Also, the minimum flow said to be "ecological" was not respected; the rate would fall to 0.3 m cube per second 87% of the time.
Early 2013. A survey conducted by an independent firm found that 53% of the population of Lac St-Jean opposed the dam project. Nevertheless, the promoter took no notice.
February 5, 2013. Martine Ouellet, Minister of Natural Resources terminated the controversial small hydroelectric dams program with the exception of the Val-Jalbert project, which prompted much dismay among the opposition.
February 7, 2013. The Quebec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks issued the certificate of authorization which allowed the developer to perform preliminary work.
February 11, 2013. The start of construction of the power station: machinery and workers arrived on site. Devastating destruction as cranes, trucks and other machinery work day and night to uproot trees, excavate the soil around the old heritage mill and distort this exceptional site.
February 12, 2013. Denial of democracy from the MRC Domaine-du-Roy and his prefect Bernard Genereux. Opponents were denied access to the public meeting of the Board of the MRC (limited to 10 citizens).
February 15 and 16 2013. According to a Léger Marketing survey, a majority of those surveyed voiced opposition to the project (51%), and demanded the government to end the construction work that has begun without their consent (according to the same survey, 61% of the population demanded a temporary or complete halt to the work that is currently underway). Despite the legion of opponents against this project, it seems that the Government of Quebec and municipal officials have refused to listen to the repeated concerns of the population.
February 16: The Innu of the Masteuiatsh community were never consulted by referendum; as it turns out, they strongly oppose this project that attacks their ancestral lands and affects their privileged fishing grounds. They proved it by filing a petition signed by nearly a quarter of the population of Masteuiatsh forcing the present Band Council (itself a 45% shareholder in the project) into early elections on May 27, 2013.
April 8, 2013 Five members of the Front for the Liberation of Ouiatchouan barricaded themselves inside two sky cabins which serve as a lift for tourists to access the top of the falls. All were arrested by the police the same day.
- Johnnie Bachusky, "Into the Void", Canadian Geographic Travel, Fall 2009. p. 62
- Village historique de Val-Jalbert - official site
- Information about the opposition to the dam project Information about the opposition to the dam project
- Media related to Val-Jalbert at Wikimedia Commons