Learn more about how dams affect fish populations through this short video! 🐟
It’s a lizard, It’s a snake, It’s one of the most unique fishes in the world: the American Eel!
Known for their elongated bodies and short fins, these fish which were once very common in North American waterbodies, are now endangered. This is largely due to the presence of hydroelectric dams, which block their natural migration routes, making them unable to reach their breeding grounds in the ocean.
Learn more about their impressive migrations, extraordinary life cycle, and current conservation efforts through this short video.
Learn about how dams lead to the accumulation of the neurotoxin methylmercury in fish! 🍣☣️
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.”
Aleta Karstad – 1 October finds me painting at the upstream rapids of Sturgeon Chute on the Wanapite River, 6.7 kilometres northwest of Hartley Bay. To get just the right angle on the rapids, screened by flaming leaves of an overhanging Red Maple, I’m standing on a narrow grassy ledge, the small of my back leaning against a cold wall of smooth granite, with the feet of my easel only a few centimetres from the edge. About two metres below, courses the fast deep water…. To read Aleta’s notes and purchase her paintings, click here to visit Aleta’s website.
For more information on Sturgeon Chute – click here.
Excerpt – Read full article here.
Members of Pimicikamak Okimawin – the traditional government of Pimicikamak, an indigenous nation that includes but is not equivalent to Cross Lake First Nation – and other Northern Manitoba communities affected by flooding from the building of Manitoba Hydro dams in the past gathered at the Mystery Lake Hotel in Thompson, which is owned by Nisichawaysihk Cree Nation, on May to voice their opposition to further dam-building while the Public Utilities Board was hearing presentations from the public inside as part of the Needs For and Alternatives To Review (NFAT) of the Crown corporation’s preferred development plan.
“Hydro talks about partnerships with First Nations,” said a printed copy of remarks made by Pimicikamak vice-chief Shirley Robinson, who spoke at the gathering. “But its northern partners only make up about one-third of hydro-affected Aboriginal people in the north. For two thirds of us – in Cross Lake, South Indian Lake, Norway House, Grand Rapids, Easterville and Moose Lake – this so-called new era is just the same as the old era. It is an era of disrespect.”
“Our people have said no more dams, our elders have spoken, our women have spoken,” said David Lee Roy Muswaggon, a member of Pimicikamak’s executive council, which along with the women’s council, elders’ council and youth council make up the First Nation’s traditional government structure. “They said no more dams because in the Northern Flood agreement they said, they promised to assess the cumulative effects of existing dams today. We can’t keep building dams without knowing what damage has been done to the current river and lake system for people that do not hunt, fish or trap. Thousands of miles have been eroded. The ecosystem has been destroyed and decimated. Spawning grounds, everything. Our fish are no longer healthy. Our animals are no longer healthy. People need to understand that hydro is not clean and green.” Continue reading
This proposal has a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) contract which pays a 50% peaking bonus for all power generated. FIT Contracts have a 40 year term. Projects with FIT contracts cannot be told to stop generating if Ontario has a surplus of power – they get paid for all power generated whether it is required or not. Proposed to produce 2.1 MW Installed Capacity, which with seasonal flows will more realistically produce 50% of that – approximately 1 MW of power.
ORA has made a Part II Order request to the Minister of Environment to elevate this proposal to an Individual Environmental Assessment – a much more rigorous environmental assessment. Awaiting MOE response.
Published: 14 March 2014
“It is ORA’s submission that Xeneca’s approach falls far short of their claims in many key aspects of this ER, and does its best to sell the reader on the project, with an approach of convincing the reader to just trust them, let them build it, and then through monitoring and adaptive management during pre and post construction the riverine ecosystem will be just fine. This approach is not acceptable.” Read more below:
Posted 8 March 2014
The Energy East Pipeline Pre-Application was just filed by TransCanada, and public consultation is beginning.
Volume 2 of their Project Description, section 1.11, lists the Ontario rivers that would be impacted, which are listed below for your convenience.
1.11.4 Ontario Water (Volume 2)
In ON, the ON West, Northern Ontario, and the North Bay Shortcut segments cross two primary watersheds (the Nelson River and Great Lakes–St. Lawrence watershed) and 41 named river crossings including:
- Winnipeg River
- Wabigoon River
- Dog River
- Black Sturgeon River
- Kenogami River
- Pagwachuan River
- Nagagami River
- Kabinakagami River
- Opasatika River
- Kapuskasing River
- Mattagami River
- Frederick House River
- Blanche River
- Montreal River
- Madawaska River
- Mississippi River
- Rideau River
- South Nation River
Preliminary List of Watercourse Crossings Requiring a Site Specific Design by Province of Ontario:
- Hoasic Creek
- Hoople Creek
- Raisin River
- McIntyre Creek
- Riviere Beaudette
- Riviere Delisle
- East Rigaud River
- Rigaud River
1.11.5 Ontario Wetlands (Volume 2, P1-48)
In Ontario, three wetland areas crossed by the Project have been designated as provincially significant. These include:
- Delisle River (0.3 ha)
- Froatburn Swamp (8.3 ha)
- Glen Becker Swamp (5.6 ha)
- Hosaic Creek (1.2 ha)
- Ingleside (4.2 ha)
There will be up to 72 pumping stations which may carry an increased risk of spills. Locations are yet to be determined through public and First Nation consultations.
Posted 8 March 2014
A proposed hydro-electric development at High Falls on the Namakan River poses a serious threat to the only remaining large free-flowing river in the Quetico-Superior wilderness area of northwestern Ontario and a critical ecological corridor linking three large wilderness parks, Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario and Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Wilderness in adjacent Minnesota.
Because of its large size and free-flowing nature, the Namakan is home to a thriving population of Lake Sturgeon, a designated threatened species in Northwestern Ontario. Detailed scientific studies have documented the migration of Lake Sturgeon up and down the river between Voyageurs National Park and Quetico. Hydro dams are known to cause drastic declines in this species. Hence, hydro-electric development of the Namakan is considered a grave threat to this species.
The Namakan is also the only known location of the Pygmy Snaketail dragonfly in Ontario. As a result, the Pygmy Snaketail was recently designated as an endangered species in the province. Studies have shown that the habitat of the Pygmy Snaketail is also at great risk from hydro development.
The river forms a key link in the network of historical wilderness canoe routes of the Quetico-Superior region. It has been utilized by First Nations for millennia, by the Voyageurs as part of the fur trade route across the continent and by recreational paddlers over the past century. High Falls, the site of the proposed generating station and dam, is the most spectacular of the rivers falls and rapids.
Numerous environmental organizations and scientists in both Canada and the United States have expressed alarm at the proposal for hydro development at High Falls on the Namakan, because of serious negative implications for the Quetico-Superior wilderness, the ecological integrity of the three large parks, species at risk such as the threatened Lake Sturgeon and endangered Pygmy Snaketail dragonfly, and the wilderness canoe route network.
The original proposal for this development was put forward by Ojibway Power and Energy Group, a partnership of Chant Construction and Lac La Croix First Nation, in order to help resolve long-standing economic difficulties faced by the community. The proposal reached the draft Environmental Report stage in 2010. The draft Report received widespread criticism for its lack of scientific rigour.
Chant Construction is no longer involved with the project, its role having been assumed by Gemini Power. Environmentalists were informed in early 2013 that the project had been dropped, but have since been surprised to learn that, on the contrary, the project is continuing to be pushed forward. As a result Canadian and American environmentalists have become re-engaged, are seeking clarification on the current status of the project, and are asking the Ontario government to work with the community to resolve its economic difficulties with projects that do not threaten the ecological integrity of the area and its wilderness parks or its internationally recognized network of wilderness canoe routes.
River: Namakan River
MNR Site No: 5PA17, 5PA18 and 5PA8
Project Name: High Falls, Hay Rapids and Myrtle Falls
Project Location: Adjacent to Quetico Park, Rainy River District
Proponent: Gemini Power (High Falls); Ojibway Power and Energy Group (Myrtle Falls and Hay Rapids).
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.