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

Apr 122015
 

Extortion: “Obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under colour of official right”

The proponent has offered the Township $100,000 to take over Township owned heritage properties to use for their proposed two years of construction and staging. Township Councillors and staff have been meeting with the proponent behind closed doors for the past month to cut a deal, apparently under the premise that if the Township doesn’t provide their lands, the developer will destroy Margaret Burgess Park.

Yet, the Ministry of Natural Resources has confirmed that the proponent does not have approval to proceed as the MNR is still reviewing the proponent’s plans and specifications and we do not know if, or to what degree, Margaret Burgess Park would be used.

The proposed project keeps growing. The current plans are vastly different, and much larger than what was included in the proponent’s Environmental Screening Report and Addendum. Margaret Burgess Park was not even mentioned, let alone evaluated, in the original Environmental Screening Report. It was tossed in to the Addendum, without addressing the extent of the impact or the mitigation required.

This should be grounds alone for cancelling the project – but it is very clear that the Ontario government currently has no intention of exercising its legal right and obligation to insist that the project adhere to and not extend beyond the approvals granted to date.

So, is Margaret Burgess Park really at risk. Or is the proponent trying to scare us into letting them; use the Township’s Precambrian Shield parking lot, south half of the Don’s Bakery parking lot, and to permanently ruin the Township’s Portage Landing land south of their proposed construction site, all because they desperately need all these for their proposed construction. Will the Township give up our land, our heritage and our parking for fear of losing access to Margaret Burgess Park during the proposed construction? Is this extortion?

Call to action
Now is the time that democracy demands we speak up.

  1. E-mail your MPP (contact information here) and the Premier, Minister of the Environment and Minister of Natural Resources (send to all three by clicking here). No need to write a long letter, the detail has already been provided to them. Let them know it is unacceptable for a private developer to:
    • Change their plans and build without environmental approval.
    • Win a contract by making promises, and then break those promises so they can make more profit while making the important in-water recreation in Bala more dangerous.

    Be sure to ask for a response, and include your mailing address.
     

  2. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper.
     
  3. Let your family, friends and neighbours know that Ontario’s Liberal government would be paying this private developer a $100,000,000 subsidy for this mess, but can instead get out of it all for free. Now is the time to avoid the huge cancellation charges from contracts gone bad. But this will only happen if everybody – family, friends and neighbours – sends the e-mails.

Detail
The proponent’s new construction plans would:

  1. Destroy three times the fish habitat in the Bala north channel for which they have environmental approval.
     
  2. Block all the flow of the Bala north falls, harming even more fish habitat and contravening the Muskoka River Water Management Plan. Flow through the Bala north channel during the proposed construction is also required to handle high flows which do occur in the months June through March, so the proponent’s new construction plan also risks flooding Lake Muskoka.
     
  3. Start work during environmentally-restricted time periods and build a temporary gravel road at the base of the Bala north falls, even though they do not have environmental approval for either.
     
  4. Risk damaging the Bala north dam and if this happened, the proponent – who has no assets, no income, and no employees – would likely abandon the project, leaving the province (us Ontario taxpayers) to pay for their mess.
    • In contrast, the District Municipality of Muskoka has required the proponent to provide a $2,000,000 Letter of Credit in case the proponent’s construction damages the District’s bridge over the Bala north channel. The Ministry of Natural Resources refuses to require the proponent to provide any such protection.
       
  5. Tower more than 20′ over Muskoka Road 169 even though the proponent’s 2005 proposal, 2007 public information centre, and 2012 Addendum all showed that their building’s roof would not be above the road – so passers-by could see down the Moon River and perhaps stop and stay a while.And note that:
    • These drawings for past commitments were all for proposals which the proponent said would be built solely on Crown land.
    • The proponent’s 2012 Addendum (which describes their current Alternative 1A proposal) specifically stated a vertical turbine would be used (Sections 4.6.1, 6.2.2, and 6.2.3), and while their current Alternative 1A building would therefore be higher than their now-abandoned Option 2 building, they committed that both proposals would not be higher than the road. The proponent showed this on pdf page 29 in the Appendicies of their 2012 Addendum, where you can see the roof of Alternative 1A would be 30′ above the Moon River (which is the level of Muskoka Road 169) and Option 2 would be 16.6′ above the Moon River.

Also:

  • The Bracebridge Falls generating station has a 110′-long concrete breakwater to protect their boat docks from the fast and turbulent water exiting that station, and the swimming area is safe as it is 1,000′ away.
    • But the proposed Bala station would have more than 3½ times the flow, nothing to protect the adjacent boating, and the in-water recreation would be just a few feet away. Allowing (by the MNR and MoE) and creating (by the proponent) this situation would be irresponsibly dangerous.
       
  • For their 2012 environmental approval, the proponent stated their station would have a rooftop viewing platform and also that they would not impact the Township’s heritage-designated Portage Landing land directly south of the proposed construction site.
    • But now the proponent says they would provide a rooftop lookout only if; they can cut down over 100 trees on the Township’s Portage Landing, pile it 15′-high with rocks, and drive trucks through it for two years. the proponent is both reneging on their commitments and attempting to bully and extort the Township.

The proponent’s changes are all self-serving, to increase their profits, at the expense of Bala.

We have detailed these environmental concerns to the Ministry of the Environment (more here), but the Ministry does not respond. This is not the transparent and accessible government Premier Wynne has promised (Globe and Mail article here).

We have therefore sent letters to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of the Environment.

The provincial government’s choices are simple
As we state in our letter to Premier Wynne, as complicated as the ten year history of this proposed project has been, the choices now are simple:

  1. Require the proponent to honour the commitments they made; in their 2005 proposal, and for their environmental approvals.
     
  2. If the proponent will not honour their commitments, then the MNR’s RFP is very clear; the proponent’s opportunity can be cancelled, with no cancellation costs payable as it was the proponent’s choice to provide inaccurate information and to renege on their commitments.

 

John Wright

John Wright, of North 45 Communications has created this excellent video, narrated by Mike Kirby.

 

Doing the right thing

Brian McDonald, Certified Arborist, of Muskoka Lakes Tree Service, was contracted by the proponent to cut down trees for the proposed construction project. But once Brian learned about the issue, he refused to do the work. You can read Brian’s thoughtful letter to Bala supporter Tim McDonald (no relation) in this MooseFM story. Contact Brian at 705 641-9223, to thank him for having high morals and business ethics – and if you need any responsible tree work done. A previous MooseFM article about the District Manager for Davey Tree Service’s Muskoka North branch refusing to cut down trees for the proponent is here.

 

Recent articles

There are some new articles at SaveTheBalaFalls.com (on the right, at the top, under Recent Articles). The broadening community support is shown by the many published articles of support, newest are at the top here.

 

DamNation

The documentary DamNation is about removing unnecessary dams in the United States. The situation they discuss is different than in Bala, but it does show that governments can make mistakes and people can right this. A trailer for the movie is here, you can buy the movie on iTunes, and it is currently available on Canadian Netflix.

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