The Mactaquac houseboat flow-cus (floatus?) group team in August 2013: Beckley, Sherren, Keilty, Demerchant, Mittelholtz, Gutierrez Hermelo and Marmura (clockwise from top left).

The Mactaquac houseboat group team in August 2013 (clockwise from top left): Beckley, Sherren, Keilty (researchers), Demerchant (boat pilot), Mittelholtz, Gutierrez Hermelo and Marmura (videographers).

Back in August 2013, we ran three houseboat tours of the Mactaquac headpond, to elicit locals’ perspectives on the landscape and what they would like to see for its future. A paper about that work, Learning (or living) to love the landscapes of hydroelectricity in Canada: Eliciting local perspectives on the Mactaquac Dam via headpond boat tours, is now out in Energy Research and Social Science (free for 50 days at this link). This was a novel research approach that presented undeniable technical challenges, but generated rich stories of the place and their connection to it, some of which were produced into a short documentary, Mactaquac Revisited.

Despite the trauma that accompanied the construction of the dam in the late 1960s, the local population has demonstrably adapted and come to cherish the new landscape: the need to rebuild the dam, with power or not, was almost unanimously expressed in the focus group elements. In the landscape elicitation, however, done alone or in smaller groups, many people expressed a nostalgia for the old river, and even occasionally an openness to seeing it returned to that state. In fact, it was the misinformation and fear we heard on the boats about what the removal option entailed that inspired our storymap, Before the Mactaquac Dam. This paper shows (again) the adaptability of people to drastic landscape change such as caused by hydroelectricity, where some amenity can be found. The implications of this for proponents of hydroelectricity (and other large-scale energy) schemes is more fraught: “You’ll get used to it” is clearly an inadequate response to stakeholder concerns, yet clearly it is sometimes true.