The proposed project would make all this too dangerous to continue …

Apr 022012
 

Summary

The proponent has always told the public that their Option 1 proposal could be built solely on Crown land, but we have marked-up the proponent’s Option 1 drawings from their 2007 public information centre and from their 2009 environmental screening report showing the Crown land property boundary – this clearly shows that Option 1 could not be built solely on Crown land.

Also significant is that one reason the proponent rejected Option 1 was that it would be too dangerous for people playing in the water at the base of the north falls. The proponent has stated they have abandoned their proposed Option 2 and will announce some new proposal, and while all we know so far is that this new proposal would apparently be built solely on Crown land, the new proposal would need to be angled towards the base of the north falls and the town docks on the Moon River – and the dangerously fast and turbulent water exiting the tailrace would be even more dangerous to those at the base of the north falls and would also make docking boats at the town docks on the Moon River difficult and dangerous.

For these and many other reasons, whatever the proponent’s new proposal turns out to be, it is not Option 1, and we have never been shown a drawing of it.

The environmental assessment process requires the proponent to conduct meaningful public consultation, and this includes showing the public; in-person, at a public information centre, the main aspects of their plans. This has not been done for the proponent’s new proposal.

Therefore, the proponent should be required to restart the environmental assessment process, beginning with a public information centre showing the actual plans and property boundaries and how public safety and marine navigation would be addressed.

If you agree that the public has never been shown a proposal for a hydro-electric generating station at the Bala Falls that could be built solely on Crown land, please send an e-mail to the Minister of the Environment stating there has been no meaningful public consultation and that the envrionmental assessment must therefore be restarted, beginning with a public information centre.

 

Detail

A fundamental requirement of the environmental assessment process is meaningful public consultation.

For example:

  • The Province of Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act notes the Obligation to Consult in Section 5.1. This has not happened, since the public has never been shown plans that could be built solely on Crown land.
  • The Ministry of the Environment’s Guide to Environmental Assessment Requirements for Electricity Projects notes in Section A.6.2.1 that “The applicant’s public consultation program should … describe how the project may affect the environment” and “Failure to carry out adequate public consultation or to address public issues or concerns may result in requests to elevate the project”. There has been no such public consultation for the proponent’s new proposal. The document notes that the Environmental Assessment Act provides for an “… accountable, logical and reproducible process of decision making”.
  • The Ministry of the Environment’s Preparing and Reviewing Environmental Assessments in Ontario notes in Section 2.1 that “Proponents are required to … Engage in meaningful consultation with all interested persons …” . And in Section 3.2.2 it is noted “The environmental assessment process should be clear and consistent” and “The Environmental Assessment Act should be applied consistently to similar undertakings …”. We understand that all other environmental assessments have begun with a public information centre at which the public could view and ask questions of the plans. However, for this proposed project the public has never been shown any plans that could be built solely on Crown land. In Section 3.2.3 it is noted “The environmental assessment process should be open and transparent. This will enable all interested persons to follow the process through its various stages of planning and decision-making …”. We understand senior staff at the Ministry of the Environment have directly met with the proponent’s hired government lobbyist, yet we have no information on what was discussed. This is not open or transparent.
  • For Renewable Energy Projects, as noted in Section 3 (page 24) of the Ministry of the Environment’s Provincial Approvals for Renewable Energy Projects, “Applicants must also hold at least two community consultation meetings …”. This has not occurred for the proponent’s new proposal.
  • The Ministry of the Environment’s Consultation in Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Process notes in Section 5.1 (page 43) that “Proponents are responsible for … Initiating meaningful consultation with interested persons …”. This has not occurred for the proponent’s new proposal.
  • The Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects notes Section 6.2.2 (page 63) that “Provision of good quality background information regarding the project is essential”. This has not occurred for the proponent’s new proposal.

Given that it is well-established and accepted that meaningful public consultation is required, let’s look at the information the proponent has presented to the public for their proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala Falls:

  1. On August 29, 2007 the proponent held their first of the only two public information centres. As the proponent had not yet proposed their Option 2, this public information centre was presenting what has come to be known as Option 1  (which was the original proposal provided by the proponent in their site release program application, which was submitted in July 2005).
    1. The material presented (as reproduced in Appendix D5 of the proponent’s environmental screening report) is here. The main characteristics of Option 1 are that the intake was directly upstream of the north dam (and downstream of the highway bridge) and that the powerhouse would be directly adjacent to the north dam.
    2. Of note is the drawing on page 8 (“Plan and General Arrangement”) where a top view of the area and the proposed powerhouse is shown. What should have been shown on page 8, but was not, is the boundary between the Crown land (owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources) and the municipal land (owned by the District Municipality of Muskoka and by the Township of Muskoka Lakes) – this boundary is shown in Figure 2.12 of the proponent’s environmental screening report, and also in this official surveyor’s drawing.
    3. We have marked-up page 8 here with the property boundary, and this clearly shows what the proponent has never told us; that Option 1 could not be built solely on Crown land.
       
  2. On August 13, 2008 the proponent held their second (and last) public information centre.
    1. The material presented (as reproduced in Appendix D15 of the proponent’s environmental screening report) is here.
    2. Note on page 3 they announce plans to “Move the power station a considerable distance further south …”, and this came to be known as Option 2. And on page 4 indeed Option 2 is shown to require municipal land (but as we have shown above, Option 1 also needed municipal land).
       
  3. Finally, in October of 2009 the proponent released their environmental screening report. Option 1 (which they here refer to as Alternative 1) was described in Section 1.5.1.1 (where they note “Alternative 1 was presented during the Public Information Centre of 2007”) and shown in page 2 of Appendix A (entitled “Alternative 1, General Arrangement”).
    1. Note that even though this shows the proposed Option 1 powerhouse angled away from the base of the north falls, in Section 1.5.1.1 the proponent notes “The tailrace of the powerhouse would be located in close proximity to the falls which could cause safety issues and public concern”. That is, one of the reasons why the proponent rejected Option 1 is that it would be too dangerous to the public recreating at the base of the north falls. Obviously, if the proposed generating station would be located closer to the north falls, this public safety issue would need to be addressed.
    2. We have here marked-up page 2 of Appendix A of the environmental screening report, showing again, that Option 1 could not be built solely on Crown land. That is, the proponent has never shown the public a proposal which could be built solely on Crown land.
    3. All we know of any new proposal which the proponent may next present is that it could apparently be built solely on Crown land, and as shown in this diagram the dangerously fast and turbulent water exiting the tailrace would be angled towards, and even closer to those recreating at the base of the north falls – and this would adversely affect maring navigation as docking at the town docks on the Moon River would be more difficult and dangerous.

 

Conclusion

The proponent’s new proposal, which would apparently be built solely on Crown land, has never been shown to the public, and has shown above, such a proposal would have significant public safety concerns.

As there has been no public consultation for the proponent’s new proposal, the environmental assessment process must be restarted, beginning with a public information centre.

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