The Ontario Rivers Alliance (ORA) was born out of 4 proposed Run-of-River Waterpower projects, using modified peaking, slated for the Vermilion River, in the District of Greater Sudbury, Ontario.
The challenges and frustration experienced while trying to engage the proponent to answer questions and provide information was the impetus for reaching out to other organizations dealing with these same issues on other rivers. It quickly became abundantly clear that this lack of public engagement and lack of cooperation was a common thread running throughout all the proposed dam projects.
There were also several obvious deficiencies with the current Environmental Assessment (EA) process as it relates to the numerous proposals for Waterpower projects throughout the Province of Ontario. Factors leading to this frustration with the EA process:
- A Proponent driven process from beginning to end – the Proponent calls all the shots;
- A FIT Contract has already been issued by the time stakeholders are made aware of the proposal;
- The EA process does not function to approve the project, only to mitigate any negative impacts;
- Community and the municipality do not have the power to refuse a proposed project or have meaningful input;
- A lack of transparency, cooperation and accountability on the part of the Proponent, MNR and MOE;
- A Lack of respect for the public’s right to know and participate in what should be, but is not, a democratic process;
- Important documents are withheld from stakeholders until the Notice of Completion is issued, at which time the public only has 30 days to comment on highly technical documents;
- A general shroud of secrecy pervades the entire EA process;
- In 10 years there have been 50 requests for an elevation to an Individual Environmental Assessment, and not one of these bump-up requests has been successful;
- No money up front by the developer for future decommissioning – so it will be left up to the taxpayer and our children to pay;
- Acts and Regulations are constantly changing to facilitate these green energy proposals through to approval; and
- No intervenor funding is available to these small groups and organizations who are working to protect the riverine ecosystems.
According to the Environmental Commissioner in his 2007 2008 Annual Report, “It would not be too forceful to say that Ontario’s EA process is broken. We have lost the old vision for EA, and a new vision is urgently needed.”; and “A no decision is not a possible outcome”. Many of the Acts and Regulations are changing to accommodate the “Open for Business” policy of the current government to facilitate the exploitation of our natural resources – especially those related to protecting and preserving our environment
It didn’t take too long to figure out that these dams would not be stopped through the normal EA process, so it became necessary to bring other groups and organizations together in order to share our experiences, expertise, knowledge, ideas and resources; and to create ONE BIG VOICE.
The ORA is founded on partnerships, so please consider partnering with us to build our VOICE so we will be heard and help bring some sense and sensibility back to the EA process and to ensure healthy river ecosystems!
Chair, Ontario Rivers Alliance