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.
ORA also objects to Ontario ratepayers and/or taxpayers having to subsidize electricity pricing and capital expenditures for industry and private corporations. This Strategy focuses only on the economic benefits of doubling the harvest, without looking at the trade-offs or balancing that with equal measures to maintain a healthy environment. This is the only way to maintain the claim of sustainable forest management in Ontario.
by Mitchell Shnier, Save the Bala Falls
The Township of Muskoka Lakes initiated a Judicial Review in 2013 as the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala Falls would contravene two Sections of the Public Lands Act:
- Section 65(4), which requires that portages not be obstructed – and the proposed generating station would obstruct the traditional Bala Portage. As requested and required by the MNR, we were able to locate historic documents confirming not only that the portage was south of the Bala north falls, but that it was established before the original Crown land patent was granted. That is, as a result of our claim that the Public Lands Act does not permit the MNR to obstruct the Bala Portage, the MNR requested information, and we provided this information, yet they simply ignored and denied what we provided.
- Section 3, which states that if less than 25% of the shoreline frontage of a body of water is Crown land, then the publically-accessible Crown land shoreline cannot be further reduced. And in fact, on the Moon River, there is less than 25% of Crown land frontage, and this would be further reduced by the proposed generating station. The Township was able to show that the MNR did not follow their own required Policy PL 3.02.01 in determing Crown land frontage. However, the MNR simply ignored this policy and presented an incorrect calculation to the Court.
Unfortunately, the end result was that despite the MNR contravening these Sections of the Public Lands Act the Court ultimately decided that Section 28 of the Public Lands supercedes the others, and if the MNR unilaterally decides the lands are unsafe or that the Minister wishes to build a hydro-electric generating station anyways, they can.
Posted 8 March 2014
On February 10, 2014, the Ministry of Natural Resources released its Renewable Energy on Crown Land Policy. A decision notice (Registry # 011-6005) has been posted to Ontario’s Environmental Registry Environmental Registry. The policy document and a summary of key policy content can be downloaded from the Ministry’s website on the renewable energy policy page.
This replaces the Site Release policy, which was a necessary step in the permitting process for waterpower, onshore wind power and solar power developments when Crown land is involved. All proposals with current Feed in Tariff (FIT) contracts will still fall under the Site Release policy; however, new FIT proposals and those under the incoming Large Energy Procurement process will fall under the Renewable Energy on Crown Land Policy. Check out the links above for more details.
Ontario Rivers Alliance made a submission on this EBR posting in October of 2012, and is available below. Continue reading
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
21 August 2013
Excerpt: “In response to Ontario Rivers Alliance’s (ORA) 19 September 2012 letter regarding our review and comments on the Economic Impact of Waterpower Projects on Crown Lands in Ontario (Report), Minister Gravelle requested that we forward our questions and comments to your attention.
ORA had hoped for a substantive response from the Minister, one that would address our economic, environmental and public health concerns; however, we were very disappointed when none of our concerns were addressed.
Additionally, this flawed Report was presented at the recent Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) conference, The Power of Water, which was not only sponsored by MNR, but to make matters worse, Deputy Minister O’Toole assured the waterpower industry in his closing keynote speech, that “Crown land will be made available to support FIT 2.0 contract offerings, consistent with the government’s Green Energy Act objectives and the Ministry of Natural Resources’ draft Renewable Energy on Crown Land policy.” This, despite the fact that the EBR posting had only just closed 10 days prior to this conference, and was not yet officially finalized and released. No such assurance should have been given without the completion of a thorough analysis of all the implications (both positive and negative). The Fraser Institute, Ontario’s Auditor General, and other experts, also question the wisdom of moving forward with additional power generation development at this time.”
ORA requests that the Renewable Energy on Crown Land Policy Review take into account the communities and stakeholders that will have to live with the impacts of these hydroelectric dams. Public consultation must be a mandatory component before releasing Crown Land to developers.
A provincial strategy for waterpower development is needed. A strategy that examines the full range of impacts before a site is released to developers, to look at where it makes ecological sense to build hydroelectric dams vs. where it does not make sense. Crown lands are held in trust for the people of Ontario – and therefore they must be effectively and transparently consulted before disposing of a waterpower site. Continue reading
July 11, 2011:
We are concerned about a proposed major amendment to the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas in the Chiniguchi River and Wolf Lake area of the Sudbury District. As the world’s largest old growth red pine forest1, the Wolf Lake area is ecologically unique and simply irreplaceable. As a popular tourist destination, the Wolf and Matagamasi Lake areas are an integral linkage for the Chiniguchi Waterway Park. Continue reading
April 13, 2011:
ORA is suggesting much more groundwork be undertaken, as well as consultation with the public and stakeholders, by the Applicant, before a Site Release is granted. There is no point in going through the Environmental Assessment process unless the Community, Stakeholders, and the Municipality have first given their consent. This Site Release Policy is important groundwork that must be completed and approved of before any Notice of Commencement is issued. Continue reading