ORA has just received notification from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) that our request for amendments to the Class EA for Waterpower has been granted – in part.
While ORA did not have all our asks incorporated into this amendment, there were some very important gains. For instance, we now have definitions for “Run-of-River”, “Run-of-River with Modified Peaking” and “Kinetic Hydro”. This was an important ask for ORA as many hydroelectric facilities refer to their operations as “Run-of-River” when in fact they are not – this results in many waterpower proposals going under the radar with little fuss from the public until it’s too late. Run-of-river has been a catch-all term that seems to raise the least amount of attention because most people have an image in their mind of a turbine sitting in a portion of the river with water running freely through it, causing little harm to the river ecosystem. However, in reality they often involve holding water back behind towering dams for release at a later time, or during peak demand hours. The impacts resulting from a facility that stores water in holding ponds on either an hourly, daily or seasonal basis are much more severe than a true run-of-river operation. It should now be clear as to what type of operation is actually being proposed. This amendment is a significant inroad into bringing more integrity and clarity to the process.
We also now have a definition for “sustainable development”, additional guidance on notifying the public via the internet for a more transparent listing of active waterpower proposals, and a strengthening of the principles of transparency and trust. Ultimately these minor amendments serve to improve the public consultation process.
A big thank you to the MOECC Environmental Approvals Branch and the Ontario Waterpower Association for these significant inroads! This is a big win for everyone involved – and especially for Ontario rivers.
You can read the Director’s decision below for more detail about the amendments. You can also read ORA’s original request and supporting correspondence here.