Quick Current Summary
- Ignoring many serious questions of public safety, law, and process, it was announced in January 2013 that the Minister of the Environment would not vary his Director’s decision. So for now, the proponent has one of the many approvals they would need to proceed with their proposed Alternative 1A, which they claim could be built solely on the Crown land south of the north Bala Falls, and which would be substantially closer to, and angled towards the in-water recreational area at the base of the North Falls.
- There are many other approvals needed – from all four levels of government, and from other organizations as well.
A developer has proposed constructing a hydro-electric generating station at the Bala Falls, which would:
- Make hundreds of feet of the only publically-accessible shoreline in the area too dangerous to access – people come to Bala to safely access the water
- Make in-water recreation both upstream and at the base of the falls too dangerous to continue – people don’t come to Bala to look at the water, they can do that on the Internet
- Take most all of the water from both falls throughout most of the year, leaving only a trickle – people won’t come to Bala to see the dry rocks where the falls used to be
For over four years, we have been battling the government agencies and the proponent to show this proposed development would permanently do far more harm than good.
During this time, National Geographic magazine has twice recognized (and now a third time) Muskoka as a world-class destination for our shorelines, waterfalls, and natural beauty (all of which would be destroyed in Bala), the Heritage Canada Foundation has recognized saving the Bala Falls as one of the top 10 heritage issues in all of Canada, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has awarded us the Margaret and Nicholas Hill Cultural Heritage Landscape Award for our work to protect the Bala Falls, and 93% of people polled have agreed the Township of Muskoka Lakes is right in their fight to save the Bala Falls. But Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment:
- Sees nothing wrong with the economic impact study submitted by the proponent – which was peer-reviewed and found to be deficient and flawed (the survey questions did not ask area business owners about negative impacts, nor did the proponent interview tourists to understand the negative impacts – yet bizarrely, the proponent stated the proposed project would have a net positive impact).
- Doesn’t mind that the misleading drawings submitted are incomplete, inconsistent, and incorrect.
- Do not question the proponent’s noise calculations that simply omit most of the noise sources.
- Has no concern that this private developer has no assets, no operations, and no employees. And the required construction would require blasting and excavation directly adjacent to the the highway bridge supports and the north dam (which holds back the 20′-high wall of water from all of Lake Muksoka). And if these were damaged, the proponent could simply abandon the site (or a disaster they cause) with no protection for the public.
- Allows their senior staff to meet with the proponent’s hired government lobbyist during crucial decision-making times (the proponent now has three paid lobbyists registered to this proposed project).
- Accepts conjecture and wishful thinking from the proponent that the proposed cycling operation would not kill too many more fish or harm the shoreline habitat. Where is the fact, where is the science.
We well understand that hydro-electric generating stations can be a very good source of energy as they don’t produce nasty emissions or waste, but there are many other environmental concerns.
In this situation, the problem is that despite years of asking, the proponent for the proposed station at the Bala Falls will not answer our questions, such as:
- Would the proposed station be safe. This includes safe for the in-water recreation that has been part of Bala for over 100 years, such as swimming and boating upstream and downstream. And would it be safe for fish and not harm the fish habitat.
- Would the proposed station be beautiful, as this area is. The few drawings and renderings provided by the proponent have all had such major omissions and errors that they mislead rather than inform. And the proponent has not been able to confirm there would be no barbed-wire fencing or that there would not be warning sirens sounded daily.
- Would there be enough water over the north and south falls that people would continue to be drawn to Bala (nobody would come to see where the falls used to be). The proponent refuses to compromise and both falls would be reduced to a trickle throughout most of the year. This would be ruining the economy of Bala to provide a $100 million dollar subsidy to a private developer.
What you can do:
- Subscribe to our e-Newsletter (click on the link at the top-right).
- Learn about the issue (summary articles are posted at the What is all this about box at the top-right, more detailed articles at Recent Articles below that).
- Contact us if you have any questions or comments.
Now it gets interesting
On January 23, 2013, the Ministry of the Environment released the decision that the Minister of the Environment decided not to vary his Director’s decision which denied our many requests that the proposed project to build a hydro-electric generating station at the Bala Falls requires elevation to address many significant and serious issues. Our observations include:
- This is just one of many approvals this proposed project would need, these from all four levels of government and from other organizations as well. We will continue to highlight the safety, economic and other concerns.
- The decisions made by the Minister of the Environment avoided addressing many major issues of law.
- We note that the Minister’s decision was announced just two days before the provincial Liberal leadership convention, and this was among Minister Bradley’s last actions as the Minister of the Environment (no doubt a new cabinet will be announced in the next few weeks). This therefore appears to be more of a political than environmental decision.
- We are encouraged by many statements from Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne that municipalities must be “willing hosts” for green energy projects.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, contact us at info@SaveTheBalaFalls.com