I know this is a long email but it is important as it relates to the development of the Bala Falls Hydro Project. Please help if you are interested!
Hello Fellow Muskoka Lakefront Property Owners;
I know that many of you enjoy and love the town of Bala and all it has to offer. Whether it’s the beauty of the falls, the boat trips to the dock for ice cream or baked goods, jumping off the railway bridge, fishing in the Moon River, swimming at the base of the north falls, participating in the Regatta at the public docks, buying bait from Purk’s Place, or the convenience of shopping locally. I know you enjoy your waterfront and the beauty of the Muskoka Lakes.
I am writing this email to alert you without prejudice to the fact that the political landscape to fight the Bala Falls Hydro Plant has aggressively changed since Don Furniss became Mayor last fall. The momentum that was in favour of stopping this project from being built in Bala has turned and with lightning speed. We believe that if the Lakefront property owners do not get engaged right now, construction will begin this spring, which will forever change this town!
This email is being sent with a specific request to assist the town of Bala and the “Save the Bala Falls” group to fund a war chest to stop this project and to move the momentum back to stopping the hydro plant. Glenn and Chris Zavitz, lakefront property owners in Bala, are collecting the funds.
The latest rendering of this plant shows the construction of a concrete bunker, which will tower over the highway height by 30 feet and 55 feet in width. The intake for this hydro plant will be a massive new hole blasted to the right of Purk’s Place. The majority of the trees that are in this area, including the side of the United Church that surrounds the waterfalls, will be removed. Upon completion, the falls on the north and the south side will be nothing but a dribble as they draw most of the water underground to drive the turbines. The beauty of the falls and the view down the Moon will be gone forever.
What many of you are probably not aware of is that the management of the water levels will be transferred from the Ministry of Natural Resources to that of a privately owned power generating company, a profit hydro developer. That company is Swift River (SREL). Their contract to build and manage this project is a lucrative one. The Ontario Government will fund them $80,000,000 over a forty-year period for a $20,000,000 dollar investment. They will receive 17 cents per kilowatt for every click that this hydroelectric plant generates. The worst part of this scenario is that this power is going to be sold to NY State at a loss. This is a minimal output electrical project due to the small size of the falls. There are far better locations for a hydro plant across Ontario that will not destroy the local economy of Bala and wreak havoc that can never be changed. Plus there are many other advanced green technologies that would not have the same impact as a Hydro Generation Plant.
The management of the water levels is of great concern and should be understood by the lakefront property owners. The water levels during construction may cause flooding. The ongoing water levels have the potential of swinging dramatically to the point where the shallow waters will become less navigable and the risk of flooding continuously will be in the hands of a private company that generates cents per click. Do any of you on this distribution believe that a private company who generates revenue per click will care if they swing the water levels so that your boathouse becomes un-useable? Will they care that you can’t navigate from a shallow area or shallow bay like Dark Bay into Bala Bay to the main lake? I know which properties that will be most affected as I have been to many of your lakefront summer homes.
The camp kids who currently canoe or kayak to Margaret Burgess Park to portage will no longer have access to this area. The strong currents created by the turbines will ensure that navigation to the public docks in Bala by Don’s Bakery is exceptionally difficult with very fast moving water.
FROM THE ONTARIO POWER GENERATION WEBSITE
“STAY CLEAR, STAY SAFE”
“WATER NEAR DAMS AND HYDROELECTRIC STATIONS IS DANGEROUS”
Canadian Safe Boating Course
Hydroelectric dams and stations, and the areas around them are:
- NOT parks
- NOT fishing holes
- NOT boating areas
- NOT swimming areas
- NOT camping sites or picnic areas
- NOT safe places for recreation
For your own safety near a hydroelectric dam or station, make sure that you:
- Obey all warning signs, fences, buoys, booms and barriers. They are put there to protect you. The areas inside are dangerous, stay clear of them.
- Stay a safe distance outside of warning signs, buoys, booms and barriers when fishing, boating or swimming.
- Stay well back from the edge of waters above and below hydroelectric dams and stations
- Never stand below a dam, or anchor or tie your boat there. Rapidly changing water levels and flows can take you by surprise and could swamp your boat or put you in the grip of an undertow.
- Stay off hydroelectric dams or station structures, unless OPG has clearly indicated walkways, or observation points.
- Stay well back of dry riverbeds below dams. They can quickly change into rapidly flowing waterways.
- Stay well back from the edge of a waterway where footing may be slippery.
- Don’t wade into moving water.
- When swimming, fishing, boating or paddling in a river, be aware of the water level and check upstream frequently for any sign of increasing currents or rising water levels. If the water level is rising or the flow is speeding up, get out of the water or move your boat downstream. Even when the hydroelectric dam or station is out of sight, changing water levels and flows can take you by surprise, pulling you into an undertow, leaving you stranded away from shore or swamping your boat.
- Set an example for children, who may not be aware of the dangers, even if they can read. State explicitly where they can and cannot go and make sure you are close to them and can see them at all times.
THERE IS A REAL DANGER TO CHILDREN AND ADULTS
It will be located on the main street of Bala.
WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?
The Muskoka Lakes Association, the Moon River Cottagers Association, and the majority of the voting public in Ward A of this township are against the project! Additionally, the Wahta First Nations are outraged that their sacred portage will be closed down forever. There are many questions about environmental impact, noise pollution, economic devastation, and proper consultation going unanswered by Ontario and the developer. Did you know that SREL, while negotiating with the ‘new’ council, still have an on-going lawsuit against our previous mayor who was trying to stop the project?
The fight to stop the Bala Falls Hydro Plant has been valiantly fought by the local people who have organized and provided tremendous information on their web site www.savethebalafalls.com. This group has primarily been locally funded and they do not have the resources to fight the deep pockets of Swift River and their lobby groups. It has come to light that Swift River has no assets, no people, and will hand off the operation of the plant to the Towns of Bracebridge and Hunstville who will financially benefit from Bala’s local demise through Lakeland Energy. The Ontario government does not care about the town of Bala. They see this project as green energy that must move forward regardless of the fact that it does not make economic sense. What Premier Wynne does not understand is that this hydroelectric plant is being built in Bala’s front yard and that it will change the heritage falls and the historic nature and beauty of this town forever! NO ONE is listening.
Rob Stewart, an award winning film creator, has generously offered his support and he is currently developing a new film to help fight this project with an expected release the middle of March. Like many of us, Rob is a cottager who grew up enjoying the Muskoka Lakes and the town of Bala. Our aim is to distribute the film traditionally and through social media to get the exposure that this project needs to help turn the tide and to create political attention that it needs. The trailer for this project can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/113814268
Funds are being requested to build the war chest to assist in this video production, distribution, as well as other marketing and legal means. We need your support TODAY! Glenn and Chris Zavitz, lakefront property owners, are collecting your donations on behalf of this project and the Save the Bala Falls group! Please help — we need it now! To assist with the funding, please send email money transfers with your donation to email@example.com . Glenn Zavitz’s phone number for further information is 519-591-8878.
To the lawyers in the group, please help. There are conflict of interest, water access rights and lack of public consultation issues that have plagued this project from the start. Both high and low water levels could be significant. Could this be stopped if the Lakefront Cottage owners threatened legal action to the mayor and the council members as Swift River has done?
To those of you on this list that may have political connections with the current Liberal government, we need your help! Premier Kathleen Wynne has never been to Bala and decisions are being made in a vacuum without understanding the beauty of this landscape. Perhaps if the Premier actually travelled to Bala and understood this impact the Ontario government would change directions.
It has been suggested that if evidence of climate change in the past five years and the impact to our natural environment was identified that the Ontario government may change it’s direction. This cancellation would be at a cost but not as significant as the overall development of the project. There is an individual who is working to provide this information and it will be provided to the Save the Bala Falls team.
To all of us that own lakefront property on the Muskoka Lakes YOU need to be engaged. Don Furniss, the Mayor of Muskoka Lakes, the majority of the council members and the Fire Chief Hayes are not Lakefront Property Owner friendly. They are jealous of your wealth and they view you as tourists! They are happy to take your taxes but you have no voice! THAT needs to change.
The Muskoka Lakes Mayor, and the Council members who have publicly stated their support for a hydro-dam in Bala are as follows. The YES side has six votes the NO side has four votes. The following individuals will vote for the project unless we can change their direction and vote!
The Mayor – Donald Furniss
1208 Beaumaris Rd.
Beaumaris, ON, P1L 1W8
(705) 764-1757 home
District and Township Councillor
Windermere, ON P0B 1P0
(705) 769-2214 home
1670 Windermere Road
Utterson, ON POB 1M0
(705) 706-4296 home
Windermere, ON, P0B 1P0
(705) 783-3182 home
P.O. Box Box 445
Port Carling, ON P0B 1J0
167 Medora Street
Port Carling, ON, P0B 1J0
(705) 765-5428 business
PLEASE personally contact the Mayor and the Council members in Ward B and Ward C to express your outrage that they are supporting this project and demand they stop. They need to be called personally on the telephone. (Emails can be easily deleted). They need to be badgered day and night, and on weekends to ensure they understand your opposition to this project. You need to ask them what possesses them to support a project that is this devastating to the town of Bala and the Township of Muskoka Lakes? Ask them if they would support a project like this in the front yards of Windermere, Beaumaris, Utterson, or Port Carling? Why are they choosing to inflict pain on others in Muskoka Lakes? Perhaps with pressure, the tides will turn back and that is what we need to do collectively as lakefront property owners.
“Hello Councillor XXXXXX , my name is XXXXXXX and I have a property in the Township of Muskoka Lakes. I know it is late, but just as the water levels in Muskoka will be affected at all hours of the day and night, I wanted you to know about my grave concerns regarding the building of a power plant in Bala. Many have said it is Green Energy and out of the Townships hands – I disagree. Give this developer nothing, continue to lobby the Provincial Government, Stand firm that Muskoka is NOT a WILLING HOST and despite the developer’s threats to use parks during construction – don’t give in. These are tactics to threaten us (and you) into getting exactly what they want. These are idle threats, and all their permits from the Province are still not complete. Please stand firm and protect Muskoka. Protect Bala. Protect our hydro rates. Your vote matters, You can be on the side that protects Muskoka for the next 100 years – or you can be on the side that “sold Muskoka” giving it away to a private company without a vested interested. “
Please also contact Fire Chief Richard Hayes and inform him that you are concerned that emergency services in Muskoka Lakes could not handle a major catastrophe in the Township of Muskoka Lakes caused by issues at the hydro plant. His direct email is here firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 705-765-3156, extension 261. Fire Chief Hayes needs to hear your concerns directly and forcefully!
We are asking you to distribute this email to other local lakefront property owners whom you know and that you believe would care and be willing to help. Although some believe it is only about Bala, the reality is that this will affect Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph, Lake Muskoka, and the Moon River! Our lakes are connected and what happens in Bala will impact all.
Please help this town protect the Bala falls! We want the historic nature of this town and its waterfalls to be enjoyed forever and by all! Without the lakefront property owner’s support this project will move full steam ahead and the beauty of this town will be gone forever.