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

Apr 252015

Quick Summary

  1. The Minister of the Environment needs to hear directly from you that:
    • The environmental assessment for the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls is not following the required process.
    • The proponent has made major and environmentally-significant changes for which they do not have approval.
    • The proponent is not properly testing for hazardous waste at the proposed construction site.
    • He and his Minister’s office need to look into this to see for themselves that the proponent is wrong in claiming there have been “no changes”.

    Click here to start an e-mail to the Minister.

  2. Great news, the Township of Muskoka Lakes Councillors voted to reject the proponent’s inadequate and self-serving offer. So now over 100 trees will be saved, and the Township’s parking lots will remain open to the public.
  3. More great news, the Township of Muskoka Lakes Councillors also voted to reject CP Rail’s request to use the south half of the Don’s Bakery parking lot for the next two months. So now the public will have full use of the parking lot over the May long weekend.



What you can do next to help Save the Bala Falls
It is important that you write at least a brief letter to the Minister of the Environment, as described in 1 above. If you’d like to write a more detailed letter, click here to start an e-mail to the Honourable Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and let him know that:

  1. Swift River Energy Limited’s current plan for their proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls does not conform to the environmental approval they received.
  2. You are therefore making a Part II Order request, because the proponent;
    • Has not adequately checked the site’s subsurface soil and groundwater for contamination or hazardous materials left buried there when Bala #2 Generating Station was demolished over 40 years ago.
    • Does not have environmental approval to; triple the area of the aquatic habitat destroyed during construction, build a gravel road across the base of the Bala north falls, increase the footprint of their proposed building by 48% and increase the height of the roof from the level of the road to 20′ above it, block all the flow of water down the Bala north falls which would both contravene the Muskoka River Water Management Plan and create a flooding risk during the proposed construction, or to install a silt curtain infringing on the Type 1 Walleye habitat at the base of the Bala north falls.
    • Must provide a rooftop look-out as they committed.
    • Did not present any of these plans in their 2012 Addendum, nor make them known to the public, so these would all be environmentally-significant changes to their 2012 Addendum.
  3. Or you can omit the above detail and just reference the letter we sent and ask that the Minister’s office see for themselves that the proponent plans major changes to their Addendum.
  4. Be sure to include your name and address, and that you request a response.

Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole
On Tuesday April 21, 2015 the Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole met to consider this report from the Interim Chief Administrative Officer which provides the;

  • Minutes of the previous three meetings of the Bala Falls Hydro Working Committee (pages 11 to 22).
  • Final offer from the proponent for their desperate need to use Township lands for construction staging (pages 26 to 30).
  • Recommendations from the Working Committee to the Committee of the Whole and resulting Resolution for voting (pages 9 and 10).

Remarkably, the proponent got the Working Committee to believe that it would be better for Bala for the proponent to:

  • Cut down 100 trees rather than two (our article is here).
  • Use three prime Township properties in Bala for their construction staging, rather than just one Crown land property.

We have the very good news to report that Council voted to reject the Working Committee’s recommendations (though by only a single vote) and therefore did not accept the proponent’s entirely self-serving offer. So rather than spreading their construction mess all over Bala, the proponent would need to use only the four Crown land properties the MNR has made available to them. Thank you Township of Muskoka Lakes Councillors; Barrick-Spearn, Currie, Harding, Kruckel, and Nishikawa, for supporting Bala and for not allowing the proponent to take over the whole place for years.

CP Rail
With only a few days notice, and without consulting the Ward A Councillors who represent the area’s businesses and people that would be most impacted, CP Rail requested to use the south half of the Don’s Bakery parking lot for staging their equipment for maintenance of the CP Rail bridge over the Bala north channel during all of May and June (in the past, such work has been done during off-peak times).

In a stark example that they do not understand or care about Bala’s businesses and visitors, Township staff reported they “cannot see any significant use of this lot prior to July 1, 2015” and recommended Township approve this request without considering any other schedule or staging locations.

We have the very good news to report that Township Council did not approve this recommendation (though again, by only a single vote), so the entire Don’s Bakery parking lot will be available throughout the summer. Thank you to Councillors Currie, Harding, Kruckel, McTaggart, and Nishikawa for supporting Bala.

Proponent not pursuing environmental contamination concerns
Two years ago, the proponent drilled exploratory boreholes on the proposed construction site, to test the subsurface soil and groundwater for contaminants left when the Bala #2 Generating Station was demolished in 1972:

  • One test showed contamination which exceeds Ministry of the Environment standards, however the proponent has apparently not done the recommended re-testing.
  • But the major concern is that all exploratory boreholes were drilled upstream of the potential contamination, so were drilled in the wrong place. To ensure that the proposed construction would not release contamination to the Moon River and that hazardous wastes would not be in the excavated rock which would be dumped somewhere in Muskoka, the Ministry of the Environment should require the proponent to drill boreholes at and west of the location where the Bala #2 Generating Station was.

Additional detail is here.

May 2015 long weekend – save the date
We’ll be holding a fun event in Bala on Saturday May 16, 2015. More details to follow.

These e-Newsletters
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Save the Bala Falls

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