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Black Sturgeon River Dam Decommissioning – Virginia Rook to Minister Gravelle

Virginia Rook
RR 2, Site 10, Comp 4
Alban, Ontario P0M 1A0

February 5, 2013

Honourable Michael Gravelle
Minister of Natural Resources
Suite 6630, 6th Floor, Whitney Block
99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1W3
Fax to: 416 325-5316

Dear Minister Gravelle:

Re: Black Sturgeon River Dam decommissioning

I have recently read Technical Report No. 06-03 produced for the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit – Lake Superior. This is a very thorough report that states that the collapse of the Black Bay walleye fishery coincides with the dam construction1. It states that many costly mitigation attempts were made to improve the fishery in the area, with little or no improvement.
The final recommendation of this report is to remove the dam.

I find it interesting that the major concerns were regarding the collapse of the commercial fishery and the loss of the recreational fishery. The report claims that if the dam was removed “Black Bay walleye population that is sufficiently recovered to permit recreational angling on Black Bay would be worth several hundred thousand dollars per year to open-water anglers from Thunder Bay alone.”2 To me, this means that the main concern of the Ministry of Natural Resources is all about profits!

I struggle to understand this.

There are many proposed hydro electric dam projects planned for many Northern Ontario Rivers – all part of the Ontario Liberal party’s Green Energy Plan. The site that I am most affected by is on the Wanapitei River, just above the Sturgeon Chutes. This is a very ecologically sensitive site. As indicated by the name, it is a major spawning site for Sturgeon (a protected species), a major spawning site for Walleye, a winter habitat for Massassaga Rattlesnakes (a protected species), a home for Blanding’s and Map Turtles (both protected species), a nesting site for Bald Eagles, a wintering area for Elk and Moose, a Heritage site – Archeological digs have indicated that it is a Native burial site, not to mention the many other flora and fauna that could be destroyed. The plan for this hydro electric project is for a peaking (or modified peaking) dam.

This plan will cause heavy metals already in the sediment of the river and the inundation area to be released into the water and may cause any fish (or any living thing) to consume these toxins to a very detrimental effect.

As you seem to be more concerned about the profits from dam sites, I would like to inform you that the major employers in this area (as in most areas of Northern Ontario) are in the tourism trade. If the fish can no longer reach their spawning sites, the fishery will seriously decline (as you have seen in your Constituency) and the tourism industry will seriously decline.
You have also learned from the Black Sturgeon River Dam, expensive mitigation measures do not work.

I should also mention that this site is on traditional Native land, and the local First Nations have very strongly stated on many occasions, that they do not approve this project, yet the Ministry of Natural Resources still will not listen or stop the process!

I am asking you to personally intervene (based on your experience in your Constituency) and stop this proposed, extremely destructive hydro electric dam on the Wanapitei River.

I thank you for your time to address my concerns.

Sincerely yours

Virginia Rook

1 Upper Great Lakes Management Unit – Lake Superior Technical Report No. 06-03, page 11
2 Upper Great Lakes Management Unit – Lake Superior Technical Report No. 06-03, page 12