European rivers are negatively impacted by thousands of small hydropower installations and barrages, with many more to come if the power industry has it their way.
Tag Archives: impacts
Ontario Rivers are Under Assault
Ontario Rivers Alliance (ORA) is a Not-for-Profit grassroots organization with a focus on healthy river ecosystems all across Ontario. ORA members represent numerous organizations such as the Vermilion River Stewardship, French River Delta Association, CPAWS-Ottawa Valley, Whitewater Ontario, Mississippi Riverwatchers, along with many other stewardships, associations, and private and First Nations citizens, who have come together to ensure the rash of waterpower proposals currently going through the approvals process are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
We all want Green Energy, but let’s ensure it is truly Green, and not the “Green-washed” version that is being proposed for many Ontario rivers. Let’s ensure that efficiencies and upgrades are made to existing hydroelectric dams before new ones are built. Let’s ensure fish passage and fish friendly turbines are installed.
Climate change is upon us, and WATER is quickly becoming our gravest concern. Let’s ensure river developments take into account the best advice of climate scientists, and are sustainable for many years to come.
So What’s the Dam Problem?
Ontario rivers are being placed at risk by a rash of over 45 hydroelectric proposals that have been awarded FIT Contracts, and are moving through the permitting and approvals process. The Green Energy Act with its accompanying FIT Program is the only thing that has made many of these rivers feasible for waterpower development. The proponent can’t be told to stand down, and gets paid a 50% bonus for whatever power they can generate – with a 50% bonus to produce power during peak demand. This encourages developers to maximize power at the expense of the environment and public health and safety.
Ontario Rivers are in trouble because our government has put the developer in charge of the Environmental Assessment process, instead of the MOE and MNR, and there is no possibility of a “no outcome” – effectively placing the FOX in charge of the chicken coop!
Hydroelectric is not “Green” when river flow is held back in head ponds – it is in fact “Dirty Energy”.
1. Bad for the River Ecosystem:
Dams that hold water back in headponds result in:
- Degraded water quality
- Lower downstream water levels and flows
- Lower oxygen levels
- Increased mercury in fish tissue – studies show a 10 to 20 times increase
- Increased nitrate and phosphorus levels
- Warming of water – sound like a recipe for more algae?
2. Bad for Fishermen & Snowmobilers:
- Turbines chop up and kill Fish and Eels
- Fish migration for spawning is blocked
- Prime Spawning areas are destroyed
- Entire species of fish are threatened
- Rapid rise and fall of river water levels on daily basis makes ice unsafe for ice fishermen & snowmobilers
3. Bad for Our Health & Safety:
- Increased mercury in fish tissue resulting in fish consumption restrictions
- Conditions created by dams & their headponds can result in increased incidences of toxic blue-green algae
- Many people rely on river water for their drinking water and daily household needs
- Dams can fail from extreme weather events and flooding
- Rapidly changing water levels and flow velocity can put fishermen, swimmers and boaters at risk
4. Bad for the Community & Local Economy:
Ontario Rivers offer a thriving eco-tourism opportunity for small businesses:
- Prime fishing and tourist viewing areas are destroyed
- Decline in fish populations, especially cold-water species
- Habitat destroyed
- Pristine and unique features are replaced with a concrete dam, chain link fence and warning sirens
- Rivers with cycling or peaking hydroelectric dams make boating, swimming, fishing, and ice recreation unsafe within zone of influence
- Tourists will not travel hundreds of miles to see where rapids, waterfalls and fish used to be
We invite you to join us in our mission.
“Our future generations are depending on us.”
So What’s the Dam Problem
Well there are several problems, but we may as well start with the root of the problem, and that is a provincial government bent on building its reputation as a Green Energy leader, and attracting big business into this Province to exploit its resources and sell off Crown land to private companies. Democracy for the people and protecting our environment and natural resources isn’t high on their list of priorities. “Ontario is open for business.”
Currently there are 86 hydroelectric dam proposals going through the approvals process in the Province of Ontario, and the 2005 Hatch Acres Report lists about 600 potential sites. Many of these dams are slated for “modified peaking”, a method of holding water back for up to 48 hours in head ponds, for release during peak demand hours. So that leads us to the next on our list of problems…. Continue reading
Hydroelectric Dams & Safety
Waterpower Structures – Definitions
A major challenge is that many of the new proposed dams in Ontario are being sold to the public as Run-of-River, when in fact they are “modified run-of-river”, or using a “cycling” strategy where head ponds are necessary. Definitions and terminology continue to evolve and change as negative impacts are attached to them, and this has become a real problem. This government has not created a standard of reference, so in our search to find an authoritative definition for run-of-river, we have settled on a national standard.
Most people when they hear the term “run-of-river” for hydroelectric generation, have a picture in their mind of a hydro plant that uses only the water that is available in the natural flow of the river, with no water storage, or manipulation of flow, so that power generation fluctuates with the stream flow. This is in fact how Natural Resources Canada defines run-of-river in their textbook, CLEAN ENERGY PROJECT ANALYSIS: RETSCREEN® ENGINEERING & CASES TEXTBOOK, SMALL HYDRO PROJECT ANALYSIS CHAPTER:
“Run-of-river developments: “Run-of-river” refers to a mode of operation in which the hydro plant uses only the water that is available in the natural flow of the river, as depicted in Figure 6. “Run-of-river” implies that there is no water storage and that power fluctuates with the stream flow.” Continue reading
Hydropower Reform Coalition – Dam Effects
Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario – OPA Definitions
A major challenge with hydroelectric in Ontario is that there are no consistent definitions. Many hydroelectric facilities are referred to as Run-of-River when they are in fact cycling or peaking facilities. Below are some good definitions which should be incorporated by government in their policy and legislation. Just keep in mind that because they call it run-of-river it doesn’t mean it is – it is most likely a Peaking plant described under “Storage” here. Peaking facilities using headponds (pondage) allow for power generation and profits to be maximized; however, the environmental and health and safety impacts can be severe:
3.6 Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario
188.8.131.52 Classes of Hydroelectric Generating Stations
Hydroelectric installations can be classified into three basic types. These are:
- Storage or Pondage plants (sometimes known as “peaking” plants)
- Run-of-the-River plants
- Pumped Storage plants
Some of the characteristics of these types are discussed below.
Storage or Pondage (Peaking) Plants: At many hydroelectric plants, production economics can be enhanced by storing water in the head pond (forebay) for a limited number of hours. This is normally done by partially or completely shutting the plant down (i.e., stopping the water flow) overnight or on weekends, when the demand for electricity is light. The stored water is used during the peak load period of the following day. This type of operation is called peaking and is carried out routinely on most large power systems.
Peaking power installations are characterized by proportionally large units (in terms of discharge capability) and relatively small forebays (storage capability). They an only sustain continuous generation for a few hours a day before they start running out of water and need additional inflow from upstream reservoirs. Forebays of peaking installations must have large operating ranges, which has impacts on the use and environment of the shoreline of the reservoir. As well, the environment downstream of the plant must be protected against wide fluctuations in discharge flow.
Run-of-the-River Plants: Some plants are not suited to peaking operations because they do not have adequate forebay storage capacity and/or their discharge capacity must match the streamflow of the river they are on. Some examples are plants located on a waterway where shipping interests and other considerations impose restrictions on such peaking operation and where the river flow must be passed on downstream in a more uniform manner.
Run-of-the-river installations are usually low-head and their operation, which is often classified as base load, does not follow the economics of supplying the load, but rather the variations of the river flow over time. Water management at this type of installation is often based on established “rule curves”.
Pumped Storage Plants: A Pumped storage generating station (PGS) represents a logical complement to load-following operations that are carried out elsewhere on a power system. A PGS time-shifts energy production by storing energy in the form of water. At night when demand and the cost for power are low, water is diverted from a lower river or lake and is pumped up into a storage reservoir with electric motors. The water is let back down from that reservoir through a set of turbo-generators when the energy is ready to be sold (and used) during periods of high value or need.
Electricity used for the pumping operation is obtained from the system during periods of low demand. This carries an economic penalty in that it takes about 30% more energy to pump the water uphill to the reservoir than can be generated when the time comes to let it back down through the turbines. In addition, there is uncontrolled consumption of that water while it is in the reservoir, through evaporation.
PGS plants are not new. These generating stations are used extensively to time-shift energy production on a daily or weekly basis – away from weekends and into high demand weekday peak hours. One example is the PGS at OPG’s Sir Adam Beck complex at Niagara Falls. Another is at the Robert Moses installation across the river in Lewiston, NY. One of the world’s largest PGS installations is located at Ludington, Michigan, relatively close to the Ontario-Michigan border.
 Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario, OPA, Supply Mix Advice, P82-83, Sec. 184.108.40.206 Classes of Hydroelectric Generating Stations, OPA
Proposed Wabagishik Rapids GS – Part II Order Request – Submission to Minister Bradley
“Our concerns have not been alleviated by Xeneca’s response; in fact they are heightened as a result of their continued insistence that studies were completed when clearly they were not. As a result of this, one has to wonder what else they are not telling us. What will happen when a company like this takes over a large 20 to 30 km section of lake and river that local stakeholders and aquatic life rely on – all to produce approximately 1.7 MW of power. Xeneca’s behaviour does nothing but erode our trust and confidence even further. Continue reading
Importing BC Hydro to California – California Rejects BC Hydro
posted November 12, 2013
by Thomas O’Keefe
California was accepting comments on whether or not it made sense to import dirty hydropower from Canada to meet renewable energy standards. Comments were specifically being called for on the draft report entitled “Including British Columbia run-of-river facilities in the California Renewables Portfolio Standards,” that included a March 2013 Consultant Report entitled “Analysis of regulatory requirements for including British Columbia run-of-river facilities in the California Renewables Portfolio Standards.” The prospects of importing British Columbia’s dirtiest hydropower to California are very dim, but the state was soliciting public comment on the report. (Notice of Availability and Request for Comments).
posted January 21, 2014
by Megan Hooker
On January 15th, 2014, the California Energy Commission adopted a final report that reaffirms the integrity of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) regarding imported hydropower. After 5 years of hard work, American Whitewater and our partners in the California Hydropower Reform Coalition (CHRC) and river advocates in British Columbia are celebrating this important victory, which will have a reaching impact on rivers across the border.
What do rivers in B.C. have to do with California’s RPS? In 2011, the state legislature passed the California Renewable Energy Resources Act (Senate Bill X1 2), increasing the state’s RPS goal from 20% to 33% by 2020. In a rush to capitalize on this new standard in the years leading up to the bill’s passage, hydropower developers in B.C. and utilities in California pushed the idea of allowing new hydropower development in B.C. to be considered as renewable.
Preston Manning Argues Conservatives Should Support Carbon Pricing – CBC – The Current
An excellent CBC interview on “The Current” – Preston Manning talks about California rejecting of BC hydroelectric projects. He refers to hydroelectric with reservoirs as “dirty hydro” because of the methane that is produced by reservoirs – which is much more worse for our climate than carbon dioxide. He says there should be a price on power sources that damage the environment. Check out his interview here.
Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act – MNR Technical Bulletins – EBR 012-0562 – ORA Submission
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.”