Inlet in the southern part of Hudson Bay, northeast Canada, bounded by Québec to the east and Ontario to the west. It extends for approximately 482 km/300 mi, with a width of 240 km/149 mi, and contains a number of islands. In 1971 Québec inaugurated the James Bay Project, a major development scheme. Centred on the new town of Radisson, it incorporates hydroelectricity generation, including a massive underground power plant (the largest in the world), mining, forestry, and tourism.
The hydroelectric project met with fierce opposition from Native Canadian Cree and Inuit peoples, whose lands and settlements were affected by flooding and pollution. Fort George (or Chisasibi), a native town, was relocated, and water supplies were diverted to reservoirs on the Grande Prairie River.
The James Bay Project is operated by Hydro Québec. It began in 1972 and the first power plant of phase 1 of the project was completed in 1982. Three rivers were diverted to increase the flow of the Grande River by 80%. Phase 2, proposed in 1975, with the intention of damming the Great Whale River to produce a three-giga-watt hydroelectricity scheme, was suspended in 1994, partly as a result of environmental concerns and the loss of Cree peoples' lands.
James Bay was navigated by Englishman Henry Hudson in 1610, and named after a later explorer, Captain Thomas James, in 1631. Trading posts were established on the river mouths of the inlet, and supplied with furs by the Cree.
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