The Ontario Rivers Alliance (ORA) strongly disagrees with your response to our numerous concerns and recommendations when you assert that you “have concluded that temperature effects have been adequately assessed using field data, a nearby wastewater treatment plant’s effluent temperature data, and CORMIX – a state-of-the-art mixing model”. Your response totally ignored a key issue we raised that will impact on every aspect of stream health and Brook Trout survival, both over the short term and into the future.
Our concerns are well documented in the attached Briefing Notes report, which has been prepared by our Coalition in the process of requesting a federal review under the Impact Assessment Act.
While the effects of large hydro projects (200 MW) have been well known and documented for over a century, small (up to 10 MW) and medium sized (10 MW to 200 MW) hydroelectric projects involve many of the same impacts per unit of power generated and, cumulatively, the environmental degradation can exceed that of large hydro projects. Small and medium sized hydro projects are situated on smaller and often more sensitive riverine ecosystems; however, like large hydro projects, will also alter the river’s flow regime and can have significant impacts on the aquatic environment, as flow is a major determinant of a river’s ecological characteristics and its aquatic biodiversity.
A recent study examined scaled hydropower impacts in the Nu River basin of southwestern China, where the researchers calculated impact per MW of capacity across 14 metrics between small and large hydropower projects (with small being below 50 MW as defined in Chinese policy). They found that small hydropower dams had greater impact per MW for 9 of the 14 metrics, including length of river channel affected and impact on habitat designated as conservation priorities.
Instead of exemptions or a more streamlined Class EAW, the OWA should be proposing amendments to provide for a much more rigorous and accountable process that ensures fish friendly turbines, effective and safe fish passage, a more rigorous cumulative effects assessment, and a more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process. We should be making our rivers more resilient in the face of climate change – not exempting waterpower projects from the Class EAW. Instead, the OWA and the Ontario government are placing our environment and communities at risk.
The ORA strongly objects to any approach that eliminates the opportunity for public and Indigenous consultation and input regarding any sewage and stormwater infrastructure projects, especially any expansions or upgrades when they could have a negative environmental impact on the riverine environment and communities.
The ORA is opposed to this proposal that would gut the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) and the Environmental Assessment (EA) program. Since the EAA was amended in 1996 there have been many official calls for an improved EAA and EA program, amongst those calls were the Environmental Commissioner for Ontario and the Auditor General of Ontario. Over this time, the EA program and EAA have become more and more streamlined, and this has led to increasing uncertainty for stakeholders and proponents.
Many individuals and groups embarking on the Part II Order process are new to it, have no legal assistance or background, and are unfamiliar with the terminology and rules; therefore, if we are truly aiming to provide help to the public it is extremely important that clear, succinct and concise instructions be provided in this policy/guidance document.
The Chair of the Ontario Rivers Alliance presented to the Expert Panel on the Review of the Environmental Assessment Process, on Thursday, 3 November 2016, in Sudbury, and also made a detailed written submission below:
Our experience in Ontario is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans defer to the will of the provincial regulators, which should be the other way around. We need our federal government to set a high standard that will be followed by the provincial players. Both the federal and provincial governments have gone through an intensive streamlining process which has undermined confidence in their ability to effectively review applications and Environmental Reports, let alone adequately monitor and enforce the conditions of approvals. Consequently, environmental protections have become very lacking in these streamlined and broken processes.
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
MOECC Decision Notice – 5 October 2016: Following the posting of the Proposal Notice on the Environmental Registry, the Ministry decided not to move forward with Coordinated Policy Guidance for Waterpower Projects after considering EBR comments and having discussions both internally and with stakeholders. MOECC continues to look for ways to modernize and improve approvals and permitting for Waterpower Projects in a way that is fully protective of human health and the environment.
MOECC Proposal: The proposed Coordinated Policy Guidance for Waterpower Projects has been developed by MNR and MOE to clarify roles and responsibilities. The proposed Guidance document provides clarification of Ministry specific roles and responsibilities for waterpower projects, in reviewing and issuing authorizations. This proposed policy guidance does not alter the powers or duties of either ministry in their administration of any Act or regulation. Ontario Rivers Alliance and Robert MacGregor made the following submissions on this posting: Continue reading