Photo by Linda HeronPhoto Credit

Category Archives: Dam Impacts

EBR-013-1476 – Draft Government Response Statement for the Recovery of the American Eel

The American Eel Needs Your Help!  You have an opportunity to support the recovery of a species that has declined by 99% of its original population, has been completely extirpated from extensive areas of its native Ontario range, and is in steep decline where it still exists.  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has prepared a Draft Government Response Station for the Recovery of the American Eel in Ontario, and you have until January 11th to sign the Petition below.  More information can be found here.  To add your own comments just click on the letter and type.  Thank you for your help! Continue reading

Canada’s Freshwater in the 21st Century, 2014, Dr. David Schindler

Freshwater is widely recognized as the most pressing environmental issue of the coming century, as roughly 2 billion humans suffer from scarcity of water for drinking or sanitation. Despite its abundance of freshwater, Canada is experiencing great pressure on both its quality and quantity. Despite impending problems, the Canadian government is de-emphasizing freshwater research, both in its funding for university research and its support for federal departments with a freshwater mandate. This lecture describe some of the current threats to Canadian water, and outlines what we must do to solve them.
This is an excellent presentation and it is beneficial to listen to it all; however, if you have specific interest in hydroelectric or pipelines:
Hydroelectric: go to 34:56
Pipelines and the tar sands:  go to 50:00

June 18, 2014 — Water Institute Lecture Series and Faculty of Science Public Lecture Series
Dr. David W. Schindler, Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology, University of Alberta, retired.

New global warming culprit: Methan emissions jump dramatically during dam drawdowns

Source:  Washington State University

Researchers have documented an underappreciated suite of players in global warming: dams, the water reservoirs behind them, and surges of greenhouse gases as water levels go up and down. In separate studies, researchers saw methane levels jump 20- and 36-fold during drawdowns.

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2010 Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada – Ontario

Photo by Mark Clement

Ontario has 1.32 million licenced anglers and over 400,000 hunters. The 2010 Survey of Recreational Fishing in Canada estimates the value of Ontario’s recreational fisheries at $2.5 billion and hunting is estimated to contribute another $1.8 billion. Together, recreational fishing and hunting provide more than $4 billion to the Ontario economy. In addition, commercial fishing harvests of approximately $35 – 40 million in fish annually create additional economic value through the processing and retail sale of resultant food products. However, trends in fishing and hunting participation, demographics and the economy are impacting the funding available for MNR’s fish and wildlife program and Ontario’s resource-based tourism industry which includes approximately 1,575 licensed tourist operators generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues annually, and account for a significant portion of tourism revenue for Northern Ontario.

In 2013, Ontario had 1.3 million licensed anglers and over 400,000 hunters. Recreational fishing contributes almost $2.5 billion[1]to the Ontario economy. Continue reading

The World Commission on Dams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe World Commission on Dams (WCD) was formed in April 1997, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of the development of large dams globally. The WCD consisted of members of civil society, academia, the private sector, professional associations and one government representative.

Its members acted in an individual capacity, not representing the organizations or governments of which they were members. The commissioners were: Kader Asmal, Lakshmi Chand Jain, Judy Henderson, Göran Lindahl, Thayer Scudder, Joji Cariño, Donald Blackmore, Medha Patkar, José Goldemberg, Deborah Moore, Jan Veltrop and Achim Steiner.[1] It was chartered to measure the impacts and effectiveness of large dam development, including the effect on dam affected communities and project developers. The ultimate outcome of the WCD was to issue a final report which was launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD established the most comprehensive guidelines for dam building to date and issued ten key recommendations.[2]

Key WCD Recommendations

  1. Development needs and objectives should be clearly formulated through an open and participatory process, before various project options are identified.
  2. A balanced and comprehensive assessment of all options should be conducted, giving social and environmental aspects the same significance as technical, economic and financial factors.
  3. Before a decision is taken to build a new dam, outstanding social and environmental issues from existing dams should be addressed, and the benefits from existing projects should be maximized.
  4. All stakeholders should have the opportunity for informed participation in decision-making processes related to large dams through stakeholder fora. Public acceptance of all key decisions should be demonstrated. Decisions affecting indigenous peoples should be taken with their free, prior and informed consent.
  5. The project should provide entitlements to affected people to improve their livelihoods and ensure that they receive the priority share of project benefits (beyond compensation for their losses). Affected people include communities living downstream of dams and those affected by dam-related infrastructure such as transmission lines and irrigation canals.
  6. Affected people should be able to negotiate mutually agreed and legally enforceable agreements to ensure the implementation of mitigation, resettlement and development entitlements.
  7. The project should be selected based on a basin-wide assessment of the river ecosystem and an attempt to avoid significant impacts on threatened and endangered species.
  8. Mechanisms to ensure compliance with regulations and negotiated agreements should be developed and budgeted for, compliance mechanisms should be established, and compliance should be subject to independent review.
  9. A dam should not be constructed on a shared river if other riparian States raise an objection that is upheld by an independent panel.

Magpie River – Flow Management: Studying Ramping Rate Restrictions

Two natural resource agencies, a university, and a power producer are working to test whether regulation of ramping rates of hydroelectric turbines can provide ecological benefits while, at the same time, minimize production losses. Results could lead to the design of better tools for optimal management of various water uses.  Click for original article.

By Karen E. Smokorowski, Robert A. Metcalfe, Nicholas E. Jones, Jérôme Marty, Shilei Niu, and Richard S. Pyrce

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Brookfield Renewable Power Inc., and the University of Waterloo are collaborating on an adaptive management experiment on the Magpie River in Ontario, Canada. Brookfield Renewable Power owns a hydro facility on the river, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is acting as the lead science coordinating agency, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is the agency in charge of regulating water at hydro facilities in Ontario, and the University of Waterloo is providing experts in stable isotope food web analysis and economic analysis.

The goal of this experiment, which began in 2002, is to test whether restricting ramping rates (the rate of change of water flow) through turbines at hydroelectric facilities can provide ecological benefits while, at the same time, minimize production losses.

For the purposes of this article, “ramping rate” refers to the rate of change of water flow (in cubic meters per second per hour) and “peaking” refers to the mode of operation of a facility where water is released in accordance with electricity demand. Unrestricted ramping allows operators to adjust flows rapidly to meet peak demands; restricted ramping requires operators to adjust flow more slowly, reducing the ability to meet peak demands and/or passing water through turbines in excess of that dictated by market forces.

ECO on Climate Change & the Rocky Island Lake Incident

ECO Comment

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.

Unionid mussels – our subtly beautiful largest invertebrate animals!

Become a Local Expert

Because of their constant filtering, Unionids are the heavy-duty in-stream providers of “water quality,” and unlike fish, they can’t get out of the way and then quickly swim back to recolonize a site. Stream projects should avoid disturbing the streambed where they’re abundant, since the mussels mature slowly, and mature individuals can keep providing improved water quality for several decades. Water level fluctuations in impoundments can make
vast areas of the bottom behind dams uninhabitable.

To become the local unionid expert, search shores & bottoms of streams, and shores & shallows of lakes, concentrating on clear-water habitats and on riffles, and especially on streams right below lake outlets, where phytoplanktonic food from the still water flows like a perpetual buffet. Some species are wedged into the mucky banks of streams. Muskrats accumulate shell piles beside stumps and rocks on the bank, which you’ll find easily once you begin to think like a Muskrat. Flood waters concentrate shells at the foot of bars, or in eddies. It’s important to examine lots of animals and collect lots of shells, because many species are superficially hard to tell apart and many are rare. Since you can collect dead shells without harming the populations, it’s possible to gather material documentation of the occurrence of species, and their variation. Continue reading

Bioaccumulation of Mercury by Aquatic Biota in Hydroelectric Reservoirs: A Review and Consideration of Mechanisms, by PM Stokes and CD Wren, Institute of Environmental Studies, U of T


Methylation is accepted to be a major process controlling the biological availability of mercury, and a number of recent articles and reviews have addressed this process.  Recently, the occurrence of elevated mercury in fish tissues from systems in regions considered to be remote from point or local sources of mercury have been documented.

These appear to be related to acidification of surface waters and to recent impoundments, usually in connection with hydroelectric dam construction. The present chapter addresses this second phenomenon, which is being investigated for Canadian Reservoirs by Environmental and Social Systems Analysts (ESSA) Ltd, LGL Associated and the University of Toronto in an ongoing study funded by the Canadian Electrical Association.

Elevated mercury levels have been detected in fish from a number of Canadian reservoirs. A preliminary study in 1976 of approximately 6000 fish throughout Labrador revealed that the highest mercury levels were found in fish from the Smallwood Reservoir and waters of the Churchill River downstream of the Control Structure. The maximum mercury levels in burbot (1.93 Jlwgm) and in lake trout (3.9 Jlwgm) were in fish from the reservoir.”  Continue reading