A presentation made by the Chair at ORA’s 16 October 2021 Annual General Meeting:
The Ontario Rivers Alliance filed a Freedom of Information Application with the IESO in February of 2016 to obtain the following list of terminated Feed-in-Tariff Contracts: Continue reading
MEDIA RELEASE: For Immediate Release: 13 July 2016
10 Ontario Rivers Protected from 19 Hydroelectric Projects
SUDBURY: The Ontario Rivers Alliance (ORA) is celebrating a major victory in the protection of 10 Ontario rivers that have been under threat from 19 proposed hydroelectric projects. Actions taken by the ORA and its members have led to what was considered to be impossible – the termination of 19 Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Contracts.
In 2011, ORA came into being to address a rash of 87 proposed hydroelectric proposals initiated under the Green Energy Act. The offer of generous incentives to produce power during peak demand hours had proponents rushing to claim access to falls and rapids on rivers all across the province. The number of proposals to actually receive FIT Contracts was soon reduced to 41, and of those, Xeneca Power Development Inc. had secured 19 contracts for projects involving 23 Crown sites on 10 Ontario rivers. Continue reading
It can be extraordinarily difficult to convince someone to take action to protect something which has no bearing on their lives. Now, for those reading this newsletter or course it is painfully obvious that healthy river ecosystems impact our day to day lives in innumerable ways. However, for those less involved in river life, these beautiful waterways often quietly stream by without garnering even a moment’s thought. Sadly, when the time comes to protect these same waterways, advocates for river protection first must expend considerable energy to convince an audience of “why” before addressing the ”how.” When the Petawawa River, a major tributary of the Ottawa River, was threatened by the Big Eddy hydroelectric project, the local paddling community immediately began efforts to eliminate the “why” question and make sure that this river was really being used and valued. Continue reading
Posted 8 March 2014
A number of environmentally harmful hydroelectric projects would likely be under construction by now if not for actions taken by ORA and our members.
In the fall of 2011, ORA was instrumental in a coordinated effort that resulted in three separate Environmental Reports (ERs) submitted by Xeneca Power Development Inc. (Xeneca) being rejected by Ontario’s Ministry of Environment. This was due to several deficiencies, as well as a “lack of traceability and transparency in Xeneca’s decision-making process and associated documentation”. The developer was sent back to complete key studies and do more planning. This rejection has led to another two years of studies, which has provided precious time for circumstances to influence some of their other proposals. These ERs were three of a total of 19 proposals by Xeneca.
This was due to ORA and several of its members submitting Part II Order requests on hydro-electric proposals for the Ivanhoe, Frederick House and Serpent Rivers. These were requests for the Minister of Environment to require an Individual Environmental Assessment (EA) for the projects.
Under current provincial legislation, Part II Order requests are the only option for the public and stakeholders to advocate for a more rigorous scrutiny of the proposal, and hopefully a more environmentally and socially sustainable hydroelectric project.
The proponent led process puts the fox in charge of the henhouse. The proponent decides when to notify and consult with stakeholders, relay information, and share important documentation. Proponents don’t hesitate to let you know it’s a done deal, and that there is nothing you can do to stop the project.
Although requests to elevate the first three projects to individual EAs were not granted, these efforts did result in the proponent being required to conduct further studies. Not only did this delay the original three proposals, but it also caused Xeneca to shelve several other proposals that it had intended to issue Draft ERs on by the spring of 2012. It has also provided time for the Department of National Defence to remove two waterpower sites on the Petawawa River.
This action by ORA and its members in 2011 bought valuable time for other events to transpire, and without this action, many of these proposals would most likely have been through the EA process by now, into the permitting phase, and under construction.
As of yet, none of Xeneca’s 19 intended projects have been approved by the Minister of Environment, and not one of the original three proposals has come back through to ER.
The first of Xeneca’s projects to make it through to the ER stage since then is the proposed Wabagishik Rapids Generating Station on the Vermilion River. In response to Xeneca’s ER and Notice of Completion in the fall of 2013, nineteen Part II Order requests were submitted to the MOE by ORA, Vermilion River Stewardship, and other concerned citizens. The large number of requests is in large part due to public awareness activities by ORA over the past few years. Currently, we are awaiting a response from the Minister regarding Wabagishik.
You can help ORA continue our work by becoming a member or making a contribution. For more information click here.
Posted 8 March 2014
River advocates who have spent years working to protect the Petawawa had cause to celebrate recently as they learned the Department of National Defence (DND) abruptly terminated its temporary lease agreement with Xeneca Power Development Inc. (Xeneca), which was proposing a hydroelectric project at Big Eddy rapids.
The move puts the proposal on shaky ground, because the north end of the dam and the powerhouse were to be on DND property. Dr. G. Alan Hepburn, a spokesperson for the Community Alliance to Save the Petawawa (CASP), says he was delighted to hear the news. He says it would have been more satisfying to see the project terminated on environmental grounds, but he welcomes its demise for any reason.
CASP has been working tirelessly in opposition to the project since it was first proposed in 2007. The group opposes the proposed development because of the serious threats it poses to the river’s ecology and to its recreational value. CASP also has concerns about the public safety impact in the event the computer system controlling the station should fail.
The organizers of the Hell or High Water events over the last 5 years have also worked diligently, in tandem with Whitewater Ontario (WO), to raise public awareness, maintain open dialogue with the proponent, and to challenge them to remain open and accountable to the public. There are many joint letters written to Xeneca and posted on the WO website under Advocacy.
Ottawa Riverkeeper has also been very involved in efforts to prevent the development. In a letter to Xeneca in 2011, the organization outlined the many reasons the project should not proceed. Read Ottawa Riverkeeper’s submission here.
The letter relayed concerns that “the Petawawa River is one of only two remaining undammed tributaries of the Ottawa River and supports a wide range of important plant and animal species, including two notable species at risk, the American Eel and the Lake Sturgeon. Given that the headwaters of the Petawawa River are within the boundaries of Algonquin Park, this river is relatively pristine, and blocking access to this vast area of high quality habitat would undoubtedly cause a significant reduction or loss of biological diversity in this freshwater ecosystem. The tributaries of the Ottawa River provide very important refuge and spawning areas for fish and it is well known that there are valuable spawning areas for Muskellunge in the Petawawa River.
Dams and weirs block migration of fish within a river and can threaten the viability of a species if provisions are not made to accommodate both upstream and downstream migration for fish.
As is the case for many other hydroelectric proposals across the province, damage to the river ecosystem would be extensive, and the project would have minimal benefits for the local economy. Dr. Hepburn points out that the project would have been constructed by an out-of-town company, the equipment would have been procured elsewhere, and the only construction dollars spent locally would have been for concrete and accommodation for the out-of-town workers. It is also not well known that the local municipalities would receive no tax revenue, and once built, the project would employ only one part time caretaker, because the system would be under computer controlled remotely.
Furthermore, these projects would not be beneficial to hydro ratepayers. Investors are attracted to them because the Feed In Tariff agreements offered to the proponents guarantee roughly five times the going wholesale rate for every kilowatt hour they produce. As well, developers cannot be told to stand down and stop generating if we have a surplus of power – they get paid for whatever they can produce, whether it is needed it or not. In other words, the only ones who will really benefit are the developers.
Ontario Rivers Alliance’s (ORA) role in the Big Eddy proposal has been to collaborate, share information, strategize, support, and advocate for socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable projects all across Ontario. ORA has worked tirelessly to address individual proposals, including the Big Eddy, as well as to influence policy and legislation that impacts on all Ontario freshwater resources.
Fish Spawning Miqration Upstream and Downstream
“There exist serious concerns about unimpeded upstream and downstream migration of walleye, river sturgeon and possibly American eel, reaching and migrating over or through any man-made structure proposed to be placed into the Petawawa River as, to our knowledge no proven design model exists elsewhere with a “migrating success rate” nearing 90%.”
ORA FUNDRAISER – 50% of the profit from the purchase of these calendars will go to help Ontario Rivers Alliance in our mandate to protect, conserve and restore riverine ecosytems. This calendar would make a great Christmas present!
A BIG THANKS to Aleta and Fred for making this possible!
A calendar for 2013 of Aleta Karstad’s oil paintings en plein air of rivers, rapids, and waterfalls in Ontario. Aleta travels with her biologist husband Fred Schueler to precious wild rivers that still run free with rapids and waterfalls, to paint and explore for little-known native mussels and crayfish, documenting these vulnerable wild communities in art and science. The image of each painting is accompanied by Aleta and Fred’s writings about their adventures in discovering the special nature of the place, as well as the nature of the threats to its integrity, leading us to enquire whether new hydroelectric projects on our wild rivers are desirable or necessary.
Aleta Karstad – October 3 finds me painting the Petawawa River, looking down on the rapids below the railway trestle. I am perched on the abutment of the footbridge that parallels the railway, working on a rather large canvas which I’m holding propped on my lap. I’ve chosen a dark red ochre underpainting because the rocks are of a reddish granite and the water is dark with an occasional green light which will contrast with the red underpainting. To read Aleta’s notes and purchase her paintings, click here to visit Aleta’s website.
For more information about the Big Eddy – click on this link.