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Category Archives: Water Quality

Hydroelectric Program Development and Assessment – IESO Small Hydro Program

First, it was enlightening to be provided with a clear definition of small and large hydro facilities in the Hydroelectric Program Development and Assessment webinar, as well as a total amount of power generated by these categories. You informed that the definition of small hydro would have a scope of installed capacity of 10 MW and under, with 30 companies representing 50 facilities generating a total of 120 to 150 MW, and large hydro having a scope of installed capacity of over 10 MW, with 3 companies representing 22 facilities producing a total of 1,000 MW. 

The increased number of small hydro facilities making such a small contribution to our electricity grid impacts on multiple Ontario riverine ecosystems, whereas the 22 facilities producing 1,000 MW of power on presumably fewer rivers has a much lower trade-off value. Additionally, larger rivers have a greater capacity to buffer some of the worse effects of hydroelectric. 

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ERO 019-4971 – Draft Low Impact Development Stormwater Management Manual

Blue Heron in Waterloo, Ontario, by Leslie Bamford

The ORA is in full agreement that Low Impact Development (LID) must be a priority in development planning guidance for stormwater management practices and should include innovative green infrastructure such as rain harvesting, rain gardens, green roofs, urban trees and forests, permeable surfaces, ditches, swales, stormwater catchments, and must emphasize the protection of wetlands.

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A Clean Electricity Standard in support of a net-zero electricity sector – Discussion Paper

When people refer to hydroelectric as clean, it’s usually in the context of GHG emissions; however, governments and utilities often use the term categorically and without caveat or qualification. Using the word “clean” in this context is misleading. Just because hydroelectric facilities are not spewing out smoke does not mean they are clean or renewable.  In fact, waterpower has resulted in significant and ongoing impacts on water quality, water quantity, ecological processes, fish and wildlife populations and habitat, and to aboriginal communities. Hydroelectric also makes a significant daily contribution to the earth’s accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) in our atmosphere.

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Agnico Eagle Upper Beaver Gold Project – Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines & Public Participation Plan

The Agency has deemed the Project to be within federal jurisdiction and required it to undergo a federal Impact Assessment, and yet Agnico Eagle (AE) is planning to move forward with their advanced exploration as soon as weather permits. ORA objects to the Project moving forward with any advanced exploration activities that would result in any damage to the environment.

AE boasts about setting the “gold standard”, “for over 60 years Agnico Eagle has been attracting investment to Canada, from those who seek a mining company committed to make mining work better for communities, shareholders and the planet”.[1]  ORA submits that Stakeholders expect AE to set the “gold standard” on this Project by undertaking the most environmentally and socially rigorous, advanced and responsible project “for communities, shareholders and the planet”. [1] Agnico Eagle Twitter Posting, 22 November 2021
ORA comments requesting a federal review under the Impact Assessment Act, 2 October 2021.
Upper Beaver Gold Project – IAAC Portal.

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ERO-019-4978 – Subwatershed Planning Guide

The ORA is very supportive of policy and legislation that provides an ecosystem approach for planning at a watershed and subwatershed scale. It is essential that we ensure a healthy environment, with clean and abundant freshwater resources, that helps to provide resilience to the extremes of climate change.  We are appreciative of the information webinar on the Subwatershed Planning Guide, and the 45-day comment period.

Overall, we are generally supportive of the draft guidelines as they seem broad ranging and comprehensive.  We are especially pleased to see the partnership approach with Indigenous peoples included in the Guide and agree that this approach will lead to a much more comprehensive subwatershed plan.

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Coniston Generating Station Upgrade – Life Extension Project

Hydroelectric is not emission-free or clean. A Washington State University study on the effects of damming conducted in a central European impounded river revealed that the reservoir reaches are a major source of methane emissions and that areal emission rates far exceed previous estimates for temperate reservoirs or rivers. It showed that sediment accumulation correlates with methane production and subsequent ebullitive release rates. Results suggested that sedimentation-driven methane emissions from dammed river hot spot sites can potentially increase global freshwater emissions by up to 7%.[1]  Hydroelectric facilities need to acknowledge and account for the associated GHG emissions they produce.

[1] Maeck, A., DelSontro, T., McGinnis, D.F, Fischer, H., Flury, S., Schmidt, M., Fietzek, P. and Lorke, A., 2013.  Sediment Trapping by Dams Creates Methane Emission Hot Spots, Environmental Science and Technology, 8130-8137, Online: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1021/es4003907

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Ending Plastic Pollution – A Call to Action – Joint

Canada has committed to ending plastic waste by 2030.i Reaching this goal will require ambitious actions that address the full life cycle of plastic.

Canada is a major—and growing—producer of plastics and the world’s second highest user of plastic on a per person basis.ii Production, use and disposal of plastics is an increasing contributor to climate change and habitat degradation. It also imposes disproportionate harm on those living next to production and disposal facilities, often low-income and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour communities.

We, the undersigned, therefore call on the Government of Canada to commit immediately to implement the following actions on an urgent basis:

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ERO 019-4219 – Moving to a project list approach under the EAA

West Credit River Brook Trout – Photo by Steve Nokams

When these unregulated projects come home to roost, and the environmental impacts begin to damage or destroy highly valued public interests, such as our lakes and rivers, endangered species, our drinking water, and the economy, the government will pay a very high price.  Unfortunately, the damage that will result from these irresponsible and negligent actions will not easily be undone, and in many cases will not be resolved in our lifetimes.

If the government wants to incorporate “one-project, one review”, then it must be a robust EA process with fulsome public and Indigenous consultation, or it may find the process much longer than it might have intended.

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Is it Renewable Energy if it Degrades the Environment?

Is it really renewable energy when it degrades the environment and impacts on communities in a negative way?

There are 241 hydroelectric dams in Ontario, and only 3 facilities have provided any form of fish passage.

The effects of dams and waterpower facilities on 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. 


Agnico Eagle Upper Beaver Gold project – ORA Comments

The ORA strongly urges the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) to determine that a federal Impact Assessment is required to ensure that the ecological, social, and cultural effects of this proposed Project are rigorously assessed and mitigated. A federal IA would ensure that the potential ongoing cumulative effects of this Project on the environment, Indigenous communities and the public are fully addressed to ensure a more environmentally and socially sustainable outcome. 

Upper Beaver Gold Project – IAAC Portal.

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