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

Sep 282015

The District Municipality of Muskoka owns the riverbed below their Muskoka Road 169 bridge over the Bala north channel. The proponent would need to:

  • Blast and excavate this riverbed between the support piers of this bridge for the intake for the proposed hydro-electric generating station
  • Drive heavy construction equipment between these support piers to remove blasted rock from the proposed construction site.

This bridge is crucial infrastructure, as the detour around it is 50 km. There would be no benefit to the District allowing this use of their land – only the risk of damage to the bridge, and of the resulting:

  • Delays to emergency vehicles and school buses.
  • Added costs and inconvenience for deliveries, residents, and visitors.
  • Costs to repair the bridge.

The District should not permit this blasting, excavation and trespassing on their land, as there would be no benefit to the District or public, just risk.

In 1998 when the King’s Highway 169 was downloaded from provincial ownership and responsibility to the municipality to become Muskoka District Road 169, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario transferred ownership of the; road, adjacent land, and bridges to the District Municipality of Muskoka. This transfer included ownership of the riverbed below the Muskoka Road 169 bridge over the Bala north channel.

As shown in the drawing below (click on it for a larger view), the intake for the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls requires blasting and excavation of the District’s riverbed land below this bridge (as outlined in blue). The proponent would also need to trespass over the District’s riverbed for their dump trucks to remove the blasted rock from their 60′-deep excavation for the proposed generating station.

As shown below, this bridge is supported by two wide piers, each extending 5′ to 11′ below the water surface, for a total pier height of 10′ to 16′. To construct the intake required, the proponent would need to excavate between these piers to deepen the riverbed by as much as 8′.

If you were standing on some rock and I said I had to dig down 8′ between your feet, you might wonder if the rock you’re standing on would crumble and cave-in to the excavation. Similarly, the proponent’s proposed excavation between these piers could undermine these piers or otherwise move them slightly and damage this 50 year-old bridge – the District has scheduled a major rehabilitation for this old – and crucial – bridge in a few years.

The proponent has reported that blasting operations will require traffic to be stopped for up to 90 minutes. And if they damage the bridge, repairs would take months and the detour is 50 km, which would cause huge delays and costs to area businesses and would be very disruptive to school buses, deliveries. Of most concern is that emergency response vehicles could not pass.

It was previously thought that the MNR owned the riverbed below this bridge, and therefore the District could not prevent its excavation. So the most the District could do in attempting to protect their crucial infrastructure was to require the proponent to provide a $2,000,000 Letter of Credit to compensate the District for any damages to their bridge. This District Council resoultion was passed in January 2015. The proponent knew at this time that the MNR did not own this riverbed, but the proponent kept this information from the District and public.

So what we know know is:

  1. The District Municipality of Muskoka owns all the riverbed directly below their bridge over the Bala north channel.
  2. The proponent’s proposed excavation could damage the District’s bridge, preventing its use for months. The $2,000,000 Letter of Credit the proponent would be required to provide before such excavation would not compensate area businesses for lost customers and increased time and costs for deliveries, nor members of the public for their lost time and travel costs. The costs to delayed emergency vehicle response could not even be calculated. And the $2,000,000 might not even cover the costs of required bridge repairs. This would be a disaster.
  3. The District can just say no. There is no benefit or requirement for the District agreeing to risk damage to their bridge, and certainly there is no benefit to area businesses or the public either.
  4. The Committee of the Whole of the Township of Muskoka Lakes passed a resolution on September 22, 2015 requesting that the District not permit excavation of their riverbed below their bridge. However, this resolution needs to be approved by the Council of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, then considered by the Council of the District Municipality of Muskoka, likely with input from their Engineering and Public Works Committee.

The District should not permit this excavation of, or the proponent’s dump trucks driving on, the District’s riverbed below their bridge, as there would be no benefit to the District or public – just risk of inconvenience, delays, and added costs for emergency vehicles, deliveries, residents, and visitors.

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