ORA is very concerned about the extreme deregulation that occurred with the recent waterpower exemption to the Permit to Take Water, and in this new Mercury Regulation where new and significantly redeveloped electricity producing dams have not been addressed. These important legislative requirements were designed to ensure hydroelectric facilities are held accountable for environmental and socio-economic impacts and risks to communities and riverine ecosystems.
Excerpt: “Our intention in commenting on these bulletins is to help ensure that waterpower projects developed under the LRIA are not approved until the effects on the environment and aquatic ecosystems are fully identified, understood, and effectively mitigated. It is also vital that the public has a mandated role and a voice in these processes.
It is also disturbing that the MNR is considering all responsibility for fish habitat and fish passage as out of scope, and is divesting its interests by way of these bulletins, with no clear MNR role mentioned, to the Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO). This is at a time when the federal government has just announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the DFO and the National Energy Board (NEB) to relinquish much of its oversight of fish habitat along pipeline corridors. This news was quietly released just before Christmas, and only highlights the need for the Ontario government to look after its own interests and not rely on federal protection for any of our crown resources. Unfortunately many elements of these bulletins do the very opposite. It is even more disturbing that this deferral was carried out despite the Fish Habitat Compliance and Referral Protocols for Ontario which was approved by government and identifies and enables roles for MNR in the matters of fish habitat and fish passage.
The exercise of reviewing these technical bulletins has been very disturbing to say the least. It is as though the bulletins were written by the waterpower industry instead of MNR. This series of bulletins reflect an abdication of the MNRs responsibilities under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA).
It is ORA’s view that this government must continue to play a strong role in ensuring effective mitigation of the impacts of development to meet their strategic directions for sustainable development; and certainly that will be what Ontario taxpayers expect. It is vital that these bulletins reflect a commitment for inter-governmental cooperation, in a holistic and collaborative way, to ensure there are no gaps in fulfilling all responsibilities and commitments legislated under LRIA.”
In November 2002, the ECO issued a special report entitled: “Climate Change: Is the Science Sound?” In this report, we presented the case that human-induced climate change is in fact occurring, and that a “business as usual” approach is no longer an option. In its 10-Year Outlook report of 2003, the Independent Electricity Market Operator, which oversees electricity generation capacity in Ontario, has recognized the broader problem of demands on hydroelectric facilities, stating that dry seasons or extensive operation of peaking facilities to meet high demand over a period of time, such as in 2002, can result in “insufficient water available in storage reservoirs to support required levels of operation later within that period.”
In addition to the potential for climate change issues, the Rocky Island Lake incident underscores the potential for problems resulting from changes in ownership of hydroelectric facilities. Against this background, MNR’s introduction of water management planning is very timely and affords the potential for the natural resource values of river systems to be put on an equal footing with the economic values of hydropower generation. To read the rest of the ECO Report click here.
|This is an article from the 2002/03 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.|
Citing This Article
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2003. “Rocky Island Lake: Alleged Contravention of the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.” Thinking Beyond the Near and Now, ECO Annual Report, 2002-03. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 128-131.