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Category Archives: Rivers at Risk

Exempting dams from requiring a Permit to Take Water – ERO-019-2517

Melville Dam, Credit River, breached on 26 June 2017

ORA submits that the MECP’s priority must be the pursuit of its Statement of Environmental Values (SEV), and its vision and mandate of “an Ontario with clean and safe air, land and water that contributes to healthy communities, ecological protection, and environmentally sustainable development for present and future generations[i].  There is nothing in the MECP’s SEV that promises to “remove the regulatory burden” from industry or “provide some cost savings for dam owners and operators”.  It is not the MECP’s duty to save dam owners and operators money or ease their regulatory burden. Its duty is to fulfill its Mandate to protect the environment and to follow its promise of environmentally sustainable development for our present and future generations.  Certainly, MECP’s priority should not be to cut regulatory burden at the expense of our air, land and water.  It is a tragedy that today’s cost savings for dam owners and operators will be borne on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

[i] Statement of Environmental Values: Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

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Issuance of Minister’s Zoning Orders – 96 Organizations Strongly Opposed

Wetlands are among the most productive and diverse habitats on Earth. They provide incalculable benefits for communities, including flood mitigation, water filtration, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, wild foods and medicines, recreational opportunities and more. They are also of immense economic value. For example, wetlands can reduce the financial costs of floods by up to 38 percent; in the Great Lakes region the benefits provided by wetlands are worth 13 to 35 times more than the cost of protecting or restoring them; and in southern Ontario alone wetlands provide over $14 billion dollars in benefits every year.

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Proposed Comprehensive Project List under the EAA – ERO-019-2377

While the effects of large hydro projects (200 MW) have been well known and documented for over a century, small (up to 10 MW) and medium sized (10 MW to 200 MW) hydroelectric projects involve many of the same impacts per unit of power generated and, cumulatively, the environmental degradation can exceed that of large hydro projects.  Small and medium sized hydro projects are situated on smaller and often more sensitive riverine ecosystems; however, like large hydro projects, will also alter the river’s flow regime and can have significant impacts on the aquatic environment, as flow is a major determinant of a river’s ecological characteristics and its aquatic biodiversity.

A recent study examined scaled hydropower impacts in the Nu River basin of southwestern China, where the researchers calculated impact per MW of capacity across 14 metrics between small and large hydropower projects (with small being below 50 MW as defined in Chinese policy).  They found that small hydropower dams had greater impact per MW for 9 of the 14 metrics, including length of river channel affected and impact on habitat designated as conservation priorities.

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Media Release: Concerns over Brook Trout in the West Credit River

Brook trout spawning in a coldwater stream.  Film by Steve Noakes

Articles:
Groups concerned about Erin’s proposed plant effect on coldwater fish, by Keegan Kozolanka
Ontario Rivers Alliance says town has ‘dismissed’ plans to protect Credit River brook trout from Erin wastewater plant, by Alexandra Heck

The Town of Erin (Erin) is in the design phase of a new sewage treatment plant, and the Ontario Rivers Alliance (ORA) is concerned that the sewage plant effluent will endanger some of the most productive and highly valued brook trout populations in the West Credit River. Continue reading


Trout Lake River Hydroelectric Generating Station, at Big Falls – Update from 2013

In May of 2013 the Ontario Rivers Alliance made a Part II Order request on the proposed Trout Lake River Hydroelectric Generating Station, at Big Falls, in the Red Lake area.   This proposal seemed to die a natural death with no decision  on our Part II request, or activity/movement forward on the project.  Here we are now more than 7 years later, and last week we received the correspondence below from the MECP stating that

“As part of our government’s efforts to boost Ontario’s economic recovery after COVID- 19, we have passed the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, including amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act.

The changes to the Environmental Assessment Act will allow us to build a strong environmental assessment program that effectively considers the input of local communities and focuses on projects that have the highest impact to the environment. The Act will continue to consider “the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment”. A key change made to the Environmental Assessment Act was to limit Part II Order requests to potential adverse impacts of projects to constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty rights. All Part II Order requests that were under review which do not pertain to potential adverse impacts on constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty rights have been terminated by the amendments.”

The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act was passed earlier this year, and this legislative amendment is retroactive in its backwards reach to 2013.  In spite of the government’s misleading claim that the changes to the EAA “will allow us to build a strong environmental assessment program”, it couldn’t be further from the truth.   In fact, there is now no mechanism to request a more rigorous environmental assessment, and public consultation and consideration on these risky projects, as well as the ability to make a Part II Order request, is no longer a possibility.  There was also no public or Indigenous consultation before the passing of the Economic Recovery Act.

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Update: Riverside Dam on the Speed River

The City of Cambridge is moving forward on a detailed design plan of the new rebuild of Riverside Dam on the Speed River.  Construction is planned for 2022 and work set for completion in 2023.  Meanwhile, the full price tag won’t be known until the dam’s design plan has been finalized.  This dam has been determined to be at “high risk” of failing within the next 2 to 10 years.

ORA worked extensively towards the decommissioning of this dam.  Removing the dam would have been much cheaper, safer and healthier for the riverine ecosystem.

Articles:
Riverside Dam construction delayed to 2022 with higher price tag, CBC News, 8 Sept 2020
Cambridge Council gives go-ahead to plan for Riverside repairs, CTV News, 8 Sept 2020


Ontario–Recycling is the Last Resort – Joint

“Recycling” by andyarthur is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ontarians may have invented the Blue Box, but our current linear, make-use-dispose economy makes it impossible for recycling alone to solve our growing waste problem. Currently, less than seven per cent of Ontario’s waste is recycled through the Blue Box, and 1 the province sends over 8 million tonnes (70 per cent)2 of trash to landfills and incinerators every year.

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Bill 197 & Proposed Major Amendments to the Class EA for Waterpower

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.

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The Problem with Hydropower – Damnation Trailer

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:

This film explores the evolution of our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of wild rivers. Produced by Matt Stoecker & Travis Rummel Directed by Ben Knight & Travis Rummel.

Town of Erin Wastewater Treatment Plant – Concerns over Brook Trout and Fish Habitat on the West Credit River

Finally, the West Credit River is a headwaters tributary of the Credit River and is considered the crown jewel of coldwater brook trout fisheries in Ontario. This fishery significantly adds to the economic and social fabric of the province, with Ontario fisheries contributing a total of approximately $2.5 billion annually to the provincial economy.  MNRF’s own documents predict that climate change will reduce the number of watersheds in Ontario with brook trout by 50% by 2050.

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