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

Jul 302015

It is time for you to tell Premier Wynne – People Would Drown

The proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls would drown people.

The proponent’s only response is that people already shouldn’t be in the water. This makes no sense and is not an acceptable plan as people would see that the proposed station would not operate during summer mornings and they would therefore see it was safe and be in the water when the proposed station would automatically start, without warning, at about noon. This cycled mode of operation would be a death trap.

Now is the time to e-mail Premier Wynne, letting her know the proponent has no plan to keep people from drowning:

  • Our two-page summary is here.
  • Click here (see pages 6 to 13) to see Bracebridge Generation Ltd.’s presentation on a tragic drowning of a 16 year old boy in 2008 at a nearby generating station with less than one-tenth the flow of that proposed for Bala.

Here are three important facts:

  1. The proposed generating station would drown people
    A few km north of Bracebridge is the Wilson’s Falls generating station. In 2008 it caused the drowning of a 16 year old boy who was out swimming with some friends.The station is owned and operated by Bracebridge Generation Ltd., who provided this presentation in 2010 on the tragedy to an industry conference. On page 13 are the key facts (emphasis added):

    • “The 21 year old climbed over the rocks, jumped in and swam through the discharge from the tailrace and over to the rocks on the falls.”
    • “Jose was coerced by his peers into the water where he attempted to swim though the current but was overcome and didn’t make it.”

    Additional significant points are on page 16:

    • “Generally children/teens do not obey signs.”
    • “A similar circumstance could still occur.”
    • “Staff had counseling.”

    What does this mean for the proposed Bala station …

    • It is the treacherously fast and turbulent water exiting hydro-electric generating stations that is so dangerous to in-water recreation. Of huge concern is that the proposed Bala station would have more than ten times the flow of the Wilson’s Falls station.
    • While the Bracebridge Generation Ltd. “staff had counseling”, a few years later they quadrupled the capacity of their Wilson’s Falls generating station. That is, these stations are deadly dangerous, and their operation won’t be changed even if they kill people. While people rarely swim at Wilson’s Falls where there was a drowning in 2008, the Bala station would have ten times the flow and this flow would be just a few feet from the extremely popular area where people swim and boat. The government should not be allowing this insanity.
    • The proponent just says that people already shouldn’t be swimming there because there is one of these signs on the Bala north dam (even though nobody can even read the little icons). This makes no sense – does this mean there’s no fishing or boating the Moon River. The proponent has no rights to declare the area a “no swimming” zone. And even if they did, then what about upstream – Diver’s Point is called that because people Scuba dive there. This Scuba diving upstream of the proposed generating station would be as dangerous as Scuba diving above Niagara Falls, as every second there would be literally tons of water flowing into the proposed station’s 30′-deep x 30′-wide intake trash rack. Scuba divers would die as they would be held underwater against the trash rack until someone could phone the operator in Bracebridge to get the station stopped.

    The proponent and government must figure this all out now and deal with the life and death situation now. Continuing to ignore it is not acceptable.

  2. Muskoka is for everyone (but the proponent would make it only for people with cottages)
    Anybody can come to Bala, and park for free, and fish or swim for free, or bring a picnic and watch the beautiful falls for free – even the washrooms are free. There are stores and restaurants, and you can rent a canoe or kayak and go exploring. But this proposed Bala project would make most of the only public shoreline in Bala too dangerous to access. If visitors have no falls to look at (94% of the water would go through the proposed station), and can’t swim or boat, then they won’t visit Bala. This would ruin the area’s economy just so private developers could profit.

    During these hottest days of the year electrical demand is the highest, but this is when the proposed Bala station would make the least power because during the summer there the least flow of water, so this makes no sense for Ontario.

    The proposed Bala station would make the most power in the spring and fall as that is when there is the most water. Unfortunately that is also when there is the least demand for power. Ontario’s misguided energy policy would result in the Ontario government paying full price for electricity even when it isn’t needed and must be sold at a huge loss to the US. This helps the US economy while ruining ours. So the proposed Bala station would contribute to raising electricty costs for all consumers in Ontario, just to pay a private developer. This makes no sense.

  3. This mess can be stopped at no cost to Ontario
    The proponent has reneged on fundamentally-important commitments they made in their proposal, for which they agreed that if they provided inaccurate or misleading information the government could cancel their contracts and the proponent would have no right to claim any costs or expenses. We need to ask the government to cancel this mess.

Write Premier Wynne
Now is the time to send an e-mail to Premier Kathleen Wynne and let her know that:

  • Generating stations are never built this close to swimming, boating, public docks, and private residences.
  • The proponent has no plan to keep their proposed generating station from drowning people.

Your e-mail should copy your local MPP and local newspapers (and if you like, copy as well). Make sure you ask for a reply to your specific questions.

A two-page flyer on the above three facts is here.

An Update of the Current Situation
For an update of the current situation, including a photograph of the person funding the proponent, click here. One interesting fact is this same person was also funding a proposed project for 14 to 18 wind turbines in Thunder Bay, and they also had years of strong community opposition. Last year the Ontario government cancelled the project (another article here), we look forward to the same happening in Bala.

Investor’s Corner
Not only does the proponent not have all required approvals for construction or operation, potential investors should be concerned about the approvals the proponent doesn’t have, for example:

  • Investors want to know what their profit would be, and this means knowing how much water would be available. Not only does the proponent not have the Permit To Take Water to guarantee them use of the required water, but the operator of Bala’s Mill Stream generating station has requested to substantially increase the flow through that station (which gets priority as it is already there). This would reduce the water – and profit – to the proposed Bala station.
  • If one is going to fund a construction project, one would expect that approvals have been received to not only start the project, but to also finish and operate the project. The proponent does not have the approvals to finish or operate the proposed project, which should be of concern since the proposed construction does not comply with the Muskoka River Water Management Plan.
  • The proponent has been actively working for over 2½ years on getting their approvals from the Ministry of Natural Resources under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement act, yet they still don’t have approval for the construction (which is called “Phase 2”). As the MNR desperately wants to give this approval, and the proponent has one of the world’s largest engineering companies working on the design, this shows the proposed project has many fundamental problems.

So let’s summarize: unknown profit and high risk of both construction problems and operating problems. If the “smart money” isn’t interested, what does that other kind say.

Saturday August 1, 2015 – FUNdraiser and Donations Update
We have very strong arguments, but the proponent and government are equally intent on ignoring them. We need funds for professional services. Come out to our FUNdraiser this Saturday August 1, from 8:30 am to 11:30 am, we’ll be set-up in front of Skirt (at the corner of Muskoka Road 169 and Portage Street) with information, T-shirts, buttons, and lawn signs.

We need 500 people to each donate $500. Of course this is a lot of money, until now this has been a ten-year battle by volunteers. But now we need to use professional services and be prepared as required.

Donations can be made on-line here and you can immediately receive your charitable donation income tax receipt as approved by the Canada Revenue Agency. Or you can print this form and mail it with a cheque, you’ll receive your tax receipt by return mail.

Saturday August 8, 2015 – ACO Picnic and Heritage Walks
Bala has always been a major transportation hub, as over the years it has been at the confluence of the Bala Portage, steamships from Lake Musoka, smaller boats on both Lake Muskoka and the Moon River, the CP Rail line, and automobile traffic.

In the last 12 years, due to the good and successful efforts of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, its Heritage Committee, and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Muskoka Branch, several properties have been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Learn more about Bala’s heritage and the planned Heritage Conservation District at the ACO’s picnic on Saturday August 8, 2015 from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm in Margaret Burgess Park. Bring your picnic lunch (and get more goodies at Don’s Bakery and the other nearby restaurants), join a heritage walk, and listen to music. More details here.

Filmmaker Rob Stewart’s Video Fight for Bala, Part 1
See Rob Stewart’s Fight for Bala video here. All funds raised go directly to

Concert at the Gravenhurst Opera House
There is a concert which includes supporter and tenor Frederic Mahood at the Gravenhurst Opera House (which is air conditioned) this Saturday evening. Tickets are still available, more detail is here, and the box office is at 705 687-5550.

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