Please congratulate Councillors Allen Edwards, Linda Barrick-Spearn, and Gault McTaggart for standing up for Bala (e-mail them here). It was their votes that allowed a Resolution to pass which requested the District not permit the proponent to blast and excavate below the District’s bridge. The Resolution passed 7 to 2, as they joined long-time and strong Bala supporters Councillors Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa, Sandy Currie, Donelda Kruckel, and Phil Harding.
As published in the Bracebridge Examiner on October 2, 2014, at an All-Candidates meeting during the October 2014 municipal election campaign, Don Furniss made the following statement about the proposed construction of a hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls:
“There are candidates in this audience who would have you believe I am a supporter of the development of the falls, and it is important that I clarify today my position once and for all. Given a choice, not I, not anyone on my team, not anyone in Bala would choose to [build] a hydro plant at the Bala Falls. It is a beautiful jewel in the crown of our township, and we would choose to have nothing about it changed.”
One would then expect that now-Mayor of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Furniss would vote to stop the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, as:
- The Township would have some responsibility and therefore liability for drownings due to the proponent’s extremely dangerous plans.
- We now know the municipality can stop this proposed project, for example, by not permitting excavation below the District’s bridge (additional article here).
At the September 22, 2015 Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole meeting, Councillor Harding put forward a Resolution requesting that the District not permit the proponent to blast or excavate below the District’s bridge, but Mayor Furniss voted against this. When asked why, his full response is here, you be the judge of his logic …
|Mayor Furniss says …||But the facts are …|
|“The resolution is in very bad faith, considering the District has already passed a resolution to allow SREL to widen the shoulder of Hwy 169 near the bridge, which involves excavation and potentially blasting on District owned property near the bridge. SREL has also agreed to post a $ 2 million letter of credit, $5 million liability insurance, plus a performance bond to the benefit of the District, should any damage be inflicted on District Assets.”||
The “bad faith” is from the proponent, who has known for over a year that the District owns the riverbed below the bridge, yet the proponent did not tell anyone so the District believed the only way to protect their bridge was with a $2,000,000 Letter of Credit.
The shoulder widening would not require any blasting, as it would simply be building a long and 10′-high retaining wall and building fence.
Councillor Edwards noted the Township recently paid $735,000 just to replace two culverts elsewhere in the municipality, so the $2,000,000 Letter of Credit may not be enough to repair damage to the bridge caused by the proponent. Also, the $2,000,000 Letter of Credit would not compensate area businesses for the increased expenses and lost business due to damage to the District’s bridge. Finally, the costs of delaying emergency response vehicles, school buses, and the public cannot even be calculated – or compensated.
|“SREL will be blasting and excavating on their own property in close proximity to the bridge. These aforementioned indemnifications also cover the District should damage occur to District property”||
SREL does not have any property, they have a License of Occupation from the Ministry of Natural Resources for certain construction activities.
As above, the indemnifications may be inadequate, and certainly would not cover costs that would be incurred by area businesses and the public.
|“I believe this inconsistency between what has been agreed to and the resolution exposes the District and perhaps the Township to litigation and potentially significant damages.”||There is no inconsistency. Councillor Harding’s Resolution noted the $2,000,000 Letter of Credit as a fact, as in January 2015 this was required from the proponent because the District thought the MNR owned the land under the bridge so the District could not prevent the proponent’s planned blasting and excavation under the bridge. It is important to note that in January 2015 the proponent knew the MNR did not own this land, but did not tell the District. So there would be no exposure to litagation from the proponent as it was the proponent that withheld relevant information from the District.|
|“In addition the District has stated they will be rehabilitating this 50 year old bridge in the next 3 or 4 years. This will probably require blasting and excavating, in the same areas this resolution is prohibiting SREL to perform the same activities. Districts contractor can do it, but SREL’s can’t because of concern for public safety and public inconvenience – seems hypocritical to me.”||
Any rehabilitation of the bridge would be done by experts who understand bridges and how to prevent damage to them. It makes no sense that blasting would be required to rehabilitate a bridge.
But we do know that the self-centred proponent would only be planning for themselves, they have never shown any concern for the community or inconveniencing the public.
|“Also, if safety is the real issue, it might be better to have SREL do some excavation under the bridge to reduce the risk of damage to the bridge support structures, due to obstacles or insufficient clearances for construction equipment movements.”||
The proponent hopes to blast the District’s riverbed under the Muskoka Road 169 bridge not only to excavate for their proposed generating station’s intake, but also to deepen the path between the bridge support piers through which they would drive their heavy construction vehicles to remove blasted rock from the proposed station excavation.
The best way to improve safety would be to not permit the proponent to blast, excavate, or drive dump trucks under the District’s bridge. We suggest the District issue a Notice of Trespass to the proponent to ensure this.
The very good news is despite the Mayor voting against it, Councillor Harding’s Resolution requesting the District not permit the proponent’s excavation under the bridge was passed the the Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole, on September 22, 2015.
Please congratulate Councillors Allen Edwards, Linda Barrick-Spearn, and Gault McTaggart for standing up for Bala. It was their votes that allowed this resolution to pass 7 to 2, as they joined long-time and strong Bala supporters Councillors Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa, Sandy Currie, Donelda Kruckel, and Phil Harding.