On September 28, 2018, you requested, on behalf of the Ontario Rivers Alliance and other partners, that the City be required to prepare an individual environmental assessment for the replacement of Riverside Dam. I am taking this opportunity to inform you that I have decided that elevating the project to an individual environmental assessment is not required.
The full Capital and Life Cycle Costs of Rebuilding Riverside Dam were not realistically represented in the ESR and could well end up costing the taxpayers more than double what was presented to the public and City Council. A Rebuilt dam would be considered a new dam, not a repair or expansion of an existing weir, with an assessed High Hazard Potential, and is located within the City of Cambridge in a location that could place multiple residences and businesses at risk in the event of severe flooding or a dam breach. ORA and Partners submit that this Project goes far beyond the screening process provided by a Schedule B, Class EA. Consequently, we submit that this is a major project that should fall into a higher level of assessment.
ORA understands the pressure municipalities are under when communities rally to maintain or rebuild their beloved mill ponds. However, it is up to all authorities and municipalities to take a leadership role that places public safety and landscape scale ecological integrity above local individual or group interests.
Drought conditions could place additional stress on riverine ecosystems, while more extreme rainfall will heighten the risk of dam failures (18 dams were breached in a South Carolina flood in October of 2015) with rapid release of high volumes of water. There have also been recent dam failures right here in Ontario – the Gorrie Dam failure last year in Wingham was the most recent, putting more than 150 property owners at risk.