Linda Heron, Chair of ORA, made this presentation on the 18th of June 2018, to the Township of North Huron’s Reeve and Council regarding the Howson Dam on the North Maitland River. According to a 19 June article by Adam Bell, Blackburn News, a decision will be made on the future of the Howson Dam by the 27th of July.
ORA understands the pressure municipalities are under when communities rally to maintain or rebuild their beloved mill ponds. However, it is up to all authorities and municipalities to take a leadership role that places public safety and landscape scale ecological integrity above local individual or group interests.
On 23 – 24 June of 2017, the upstream Gorrie Dam failed and the Howson Dam was at capacity during an extreme rain event and flood when 175 mm of rain fell in just 7 hours, placing more than 150 property owners at risk and resulting in an estimated $11-million in damages in the Town of Harriston. This severe rain event broke previous records by approximately 40% and was the second highest flow on the North Maitland in the 48 years of record. Fortunately, no one was killed; however, it could have been much worse, as in October of 2015, when a South Carolina flood breached 18 dams, and resulted in 16 deaths.
It has come to ORA’s attention that the Gorrie Dam on the North Maitland River failed as a result of flooding during an extreme rain event on 23 – 24 June 2017, and that Maitland Conservation is considering its options. We understand that no one is more aware of the extremes of a volatile and changing climate than Conservation Authorities, and yours in particular; and we understand the pressure that Conservation Authorities and municipalities are under when communities rally to maintain their coveted mill ponds. However, it is up to all authorities to take a leadership role that places public safety and landscape scale ecological integrity above local individual or group interests.
Drought conditions could place additional stress on riverine ecosystems, while more extreme rainfall will heighten the risk of dam failures (18 dams were breached in a South Carolina flood in October of 2015) with rapid release of high volumes of water. There have also been recent dam failures right here in Ontario – the Gorrie Dam failure last year in Wingham was the most recent, putting more than 150 property owners at risk.
LONDON – After several years of debate over whether to repair or remove the broken Springbank Dam on the Thames River, in a unanimous vote, London City Council decided to decommission the dam. City staff will now prepare a report to advise Council on whether to repurpose it as a footbridge or remove it entirely from the river. Eliminating the last man-made barrier between the forks and the mouth of the Thames River is a significant win for the environment and City residents.
Through a groundswell of support from several organizations, businesses and individuals, we were able draw attention to a river not just in recovery but thriving since the dam gates broke in 2008. We were able to change the conversation from the foregone conclusion that the dam would be repaired, to a unanimous vote to decommission Springbank Dam. A big thank you to City Councillors who were open-minded and receptive to our positive message. Continue reading
The City of London’s Civic Works Committee has made a decision on the recommended preferred option of a “Free Flowing River”. As the London Free Press said, “After a unanimous vote to recommend decommissioning the dam at Tuesday’s civic works committee, when and how to do it could be the next chapter in the city’s Springbank dam saga. There’s still a rubber-stamping needed from city council next week, but the writing clearly is on the wall”.
The Thames River Anglers Association and the Ontario Rivers Alliance have continued to lobby through many channels to achieve this preferred outcome. In January of 2016 we rallied the support of over 20 organizations representing more than 200,000 members to encourage the City of London to fully decommission Springbank Dam and protect the recovering riverine ecosystem. Again, on January 9th of this year we submitted a joint letter of support to the Civic Works Committee from 16 organizations, businesses and stakeholder individuals – see below: Continue reading