Big Falls – Victory – stopped a proposed hydroelectric project on a sacred site!
The Trout Lake River has since time before memory been out travel route to and from Lac Seul and other places south. That river system is still a travel route. The river is full of wild rice fields, medicines, and other relations who thrive in the interdependence of this water system. The Trout Lake River meets with the Chukuni River and both then flow into the English River. Downstream of the English River are two communities, Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong First Nation. These two communities have already been devastated by the presence of methyl-mercury in the water and in their local food sources. I am sure that you are aware of their ongoing efforts to have the river cleaned up and for their people to be given proper medical care for having been poisoned by this polluted river.
You will find all the submissions made by ORA and our members here.
In May of 2013 the Ontario Rivers Alliance made a Part II Order request on the proposed Trout Lake River Hydroelectric Generating Station, at Big Falls, in the Red Lake area. This proposal seemed to die a natural death with no decision on our Part II request, or activity/movement forward on the project. Here we are now more than 7 years later, and last week we received the correspondence below from the MECP stating that
“As part of our government’s efforts to boost Ontario’s economic recovery after COVID- 19, we have passed the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, including amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act.
The changes to the Environmental Assessment Act will allow us to build a strong environmental assessment program that effectively considers the input of local communities and focuses on projects that have the highest impact to the environment. The Act will continue to consider “the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment”. A key change made to the Environmental Assessment Act was to limit Part II Order requests to potential adverse impacts of projects to constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty rights. All Part II Order requests that were under review which do not pertain to potential adverse impacts on constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty rights have been terminated by the amendments.”
The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act was passed earlier this year, and this legislative amendment is retroactive in its backwards reach to 2013. In spite of the government’s misleading claim that the changes to the EAA “will allow us to build a strong environmental assessment program”, it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there is now no mechanism to request a more rigorous environmental assessment, and public consultation and consideration on these risky projects, as well as the ability to make a Part II Order request, is no longer a possibility. There was also no public or Indigenous consultation before the passing of the Economic Recovery Act.
On March 14, 2014, Ontario Rivers Alliance (ORA) submitted a Part II Order request to the Minister of Environment on the Environmental Report for the Marter Township, Blanche River Hydroelectric proposal, on the grounds that, in our opinion, Xeneca Power Development Inc. did not meet the requirements of the Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower (Class EA) in numerous areas.
ORA is pleased to report that today we received a response from the Minister’s office, stating that “based on the ministry’s review of the Environmental Report, Xeneca has failed to meet the Class EA requirements”.
The Ministry is requiring Xeneca to go back and correct several deficiencies. Once the deficiencies are corrected Xeneca can resubmit its Notice of Completion and Environmental Report. This will be very difficult for Xeneca to fulfill with just one employee and a cell phone. We are still awaiting decisions on the Part II Order requests ORA submitted on the Wabagishik, Frederick House and Ivanhoe Rivers Environmental Reports.
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