Instead of exemptions or a more streamlined Class EAW, the OWA should be proposing amendments to provide for a much more rigorous and accountable process that ensures fish friendly turbines, effective and safe fish passage, a more rigorous cumulative effects assessment, and a more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process. We should be making our rivers more resilient in the face of climate change – not exempting waterpower projects from the Class EAW. Instead, the OWA and the Ontario government are placing our environment and communities at risk.
Ontario has hundreds, if not thousands of dams that are unsafe and no longer serving any useful purpose. These dams are blocking fish passage, degrading water quality, fragmenting habitat, threatening species at risk and sensitive cold water species. ORA is working to take them out. Check out this excellent overview of the problems with hydropower:
The effects of dams and hydroelectric facilities on fish populations and fisheries have been well documented over the past century and include the loss or serious decline of many iconic fish species, which are resources of importance to Ontario’s economy, biodiversity, and natural and cultural heritage.
Since 1963 the Little Long Generating Complex on the Lower Mattagami River in Northern Ontario has been the source of an environmental crisis of immeasurable proportions. Thousands of Lake Sturgeon have been entrained through spillway gates and left stranded waiting to be captured and relocated back to their adopted man-made habitat, leaving waters not fit for survival. Adam Creek Spillway is well known province-wide as a thorn in hydro electric energy and should not be defined or qualified as GREEN energy.
The fact that Lake Sturgeon and American Eel no longer exists in this section of the Madawaska River, is all the more reason that OPG should make every effort to rehabilitate these populations and include effective fish passage for these and other fish species at this facility. OPG is a provincial entity and as such should set the example as a beacon for responsible and sustainable hydroelectric facilities and operations in Ontario.
Since this project was first proposed, a large percentage of the community of Bala Falls have been opposed to it. Citizens have lobbied, marched, picketed, petitioned and railed against this abomination being built in the heart of their town. Immediately downstream of the dam is a favourite public swimming and picnic area that draws local residents and tourists from far and wide. This project will pose a public safety risk; however, there is no Public Safety Plan – it wasn’t included in the initial Environmental Report, nor was it adequately addressed. It was unacceptable in 2012, and it’s still unacceptable – it should never have been approved in the first place.
After reviewing the Project documentation, the issues raised by the requesters, and the outstanding concerns of technical staff, the MECP has determined that the project has not met the requirements of the Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects.
ORA has fully participated in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Process review and was very hopeful with this government’s promise to “rebuild public trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and ensure good projects get built…” While there are some encouraging components, such as requiring the Minister and Cabinet to provide reasons for environmental approvals and creating a single agency to conduct assessments, it is extremely disappointing that the proposed Impact Assessment Act (IAA) further undermines credibility and trust as well as its ability to protect the environment. It is a very flawed process when after going through years of application review and examination of science-based evidence, that the Minister could make a purely political decision and prioritize economic considerations over meeting climate commitments – as it is doing now with the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
In September of 2016, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) received a Feed-in-Tariff Power Procurement Contract from the IESO to sell power to the grid. In June 2017, the GRCA initiated a Class Environmental Assessment to evaluate the construction of a waterpower project, the Parkhill Hydro Generating Station located at the existing Parkhill Dam in the City of Cambridge. If approved and constructed, this waterpower project would have a nameplate capacity of 500 kW. The project is subject to the provisions of the Ontario Waterpower Association “Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects.” Pursuant to the Class EA, this project is considered to be associated with existing infrastructure. Continue reading