By Karen E. Smokorowski, Robert A. Metcalfe, Nicholas E. Jones, Jérôme Marty, Shilei Niu, and Richard S. Pyrce
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Brookfield Renewable Power Inc., and the University of Waterloo are collaborating on an adaptive management experiment on the Magpie River in Ontario, Canada. Brookfield Renewable Power owns a hydro facility on the river, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is acting as the lead science coordinating agency, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is the agency in charge of regulating water at hydro facilities in Ontario, and the University of Waterloo is providing experts in stable isotope food web analysis and economic analysis.
The goal of this experiment, which began in 2002, is to test whether restricting ramping rates (the rate of change of water flow) through turbines at hydroelectric facilities can provide ecological benefits while, at the same time, minimize production losses.
For the purposes of this article, “ramping rate” refers to the rate of change of water flow (in cubic meters per second per hour) and “peaking” refers to the mode of operation of a facility where water is released in accordance with electricity demand. Unrestricted ramping allows operators to adjust flows rapidly to meet peak demands; restricted ramping requires operators to adjust flow more slowly, reducing the ability to meet peak demands and/or passing water through turbines in excess of that dictated by market forces.
In November 2002, the ECO issued a special report entitled: “Climate Change: Is the Science Sound?” In this report, we presented the case that human-induced climate change is in fact occurring, and that a “business as usual” approach is no longer an option. In its 10-Year Outlook report of 2003, the Independent Electricity Market Operator, which oversees electricity generation capacity in Ontario, has recognized the broader problem of demands on hydroelectric facilities, stating that dry seasons or extensive operation of peaking facilities to meet high demand over a period of time, such as in 2002, can result in “insufficient water available in storage reservoirs to support required levels of operation later within that period.”
In addition to the potential for climate change issues, the Rocky Island Lake incident underscores the potential for problems resulting from changes in ownership of hydroelectric facilities. Against this background, MNR’s introduction of water management planning is very timely and affords the potential for the natural resource values of river systems to be put on an equal footing with the economic values of hydropower generation. To read the rest of the ECO Report click here.
Citing This Article
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2003. “Rocky Island Lake: Alleged Contravention of the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.” Thinking Beyond the Near and Now, ECO Annual Report, 2002-03. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 128-131.
Become a Local Expert
Because of their constant filtering, Unionids are the heavy-duty in-stream providers of “water quality,” and unlike fish, they can’t get out of the way and then quickly swim back to recolonize a site. Stream projects should avoid disturbing the streambed where they’re abundant, since the mussels mature slowly, and mature individuals can keep providing improved water quality for several decades. Water level fluctuations in impoundments can make
vast areas of the bottom behind dams uninhabitable.
To become the local unionid expert, search shores & bottoms of streams, and shores & shallows of lakes, concentrating on clear-water habitats and on riffles, and especially on streams right below lake outlets, where phytoplanktonic food from the still water flows like a perpetual buffet. Some species are wedged into the mucky banks of streams. Muskrats accumulate shell piles beside stumps and rocks on the bank, which you’ll find easily once you begin to think like a Muskrat. Flood waters concentrate shells at the foot of bars, or in eddies. It’s important to examine lots of animals and collect lots of shells, because many species are superficially hard to tell apart and many are rare. Since you can collect dead shells without harming the populations, it’s possible to gather material documentation of the occurrence of species, and their variation. Continue reading
Methylation is accepted to be a major process controlling the biological availability of mercury, and a number of recent articles and reviews have addressed this process. Recently, the occurrence of elevated mercury in fish tissues from systems in regions considered to be remote from point or local sources of mercury have been documented.
These appear to be related to acidification of surface waters and to recent impoundments, usually in connection with hydroelectric dam construction. The present chapter addresses this second phenomenon, which is being investigated for Canadian Reservoirs by Environmental and Social Systems Analysts (ESSA) Ltd, LGL Associated and the University of Toronto in an ongoing study funded by the Canadian Electrical Association.
Elevated mercury levels have been detected in fish from a number of Canadian reservoirs. A preliminary study in 1976 of approximately 6000 fish throughout Labrador revealed that the highest mercury levels were found in fish from the Smallwood Reservoir and waters of the Churchill River downstream of the Control Structure. The maximum mercury levels in burbot (1.93 Jlwgm) and in lake trout (3.9 Jlwgm) were in fish from the reservoir.” Continue reading
Author: Kerr, S.J. 1995. Silt, turbidity and suspended sediments in the aquatic environment: an annotated bibliography and literature review. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Southern Region Science & Technology Transfer Unit Technical Report TR-008. 277 pp.
Summary: The impacts of siltation and suspended sediments on water quality and resident aquatic organisms is one of the most common problems facing resource managers today. Most construction activities in or near a watercourse have the potential to result in decreased shoreline stability and/or an increase in siltation, suspended sediments and turbidity.
This annotated bibliography was prepared in response to requests from several Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources biologists and technicians. Almost 1,200 references are cited. Abstracts, summaries or extracts of each paper are included whenever possible. Continue reading