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Category Archives: Dam Removals

Springbank Dam – One River Class EA – Preferred Alternative – Joint Submission

Springbank Dam, Thames River, London, ON

Our organizations recommend choosing Alternative 3 – the Full Removal of Springbank Dam and the naturalization of this section of the Thames River.   We submit that full dam removal and naturalization are the preferred solutions from an environmental perspective and would likely prove to be the most cost-effective over the long-term when Life-cycle costs and available provincial and federal funding are considered.

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Riverside Dam Class EA – Part II Order Request – ORA & Partners

The full Capital and Life Cycle Costs of Rebuilding Riverside Dam were not realistically represented in the ESR and could well end up costing the taxpayers more than double what was presented to the public and City Council.  A Rebuilt dam would be considered a new dam, not a repair or expansion of an existing weir, with an assessed High Hazard Potential, and is located within the City of Cambridge in a location that could place multiple residences and businesses at risk in the event of severe flooding or a dam breach.  ORA and Partners submit that this Project goes far beyond the screening process provided by a Schedule B, Class EA.  Consequently, we submit that this is a major project that should fall into a higher level of assessment.

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Howson Dam on the North Maitland River should be Decommissioned

Howson Dam at capacity in the 24 June 2017 storm event.

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. Continue reading


Riverside Dam Class EA – Update to Preliminary Preferred Alternative – Joint Submission

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.

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Decommission Howson Dam on the North Maitland River

Looking downstream at Howson Dam on the North Maitland River.

 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.

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Gorrie Dam Failure, North Maitland River

Gorrie Dam Breach – Scour Hole

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.

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Riverside Dam Class Environmental Assessment – Speed River

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.

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MEDIA RELEASE: London City Council Says Springbank Dam Must Go

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


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