In 2008, a 16-year-old-boy drowned just downstream of the Wilson’s Falls generating station, which is owned and operated by Bracebridge Generation Ltd. Bracebridge Generation’s own presentation at an annual industry conference in 2010 confirmed that this drowning was due to the discharge flow from their station’s tailrace.
After the SaveTheBalaFalls.com presentation at the September 18, 2015 Council meeting, Mayor Furniss made the following statement:
“A point of information on the drowning in 2008 that Mr. Shnier mentioned in his report. That particular weekend there happened to be two drownings, one at the North branch of the Muskoka River and one in the South branch of the Muskoka River. Primarily due not to the hydro generating plants but the huge amount of rainfall that happened to have happened the week before that caused abnormal amounts of water to come down that river at that time of year. I might also add that there were warning signs put there warning people not to swim at those locations. People clearly disobeyed it. You had an individual there who was a weak swimmer from Toronto who obviously didn’t pay attention to the signs. It’s an unfortunate issue but to pin that on a hydro generating station, I think that is wrong. It was primarily due to the amount of water that was going over the falls.”
That is, Mayor Furniss claims the Wilson’s Falls drowning was due to the high flow in the river. You be the judge:
Exhibit 1: The owner and operator of the Wilson’s Falls generating station is Bracebridge Generation Ltd., who made a presentation on this drowning in 2010 at the annual industry conference, which is sponsored by the Ontario Waterpower Association. This presentation included the two pages below – click on them for a larger view of an abridged version of their presentation, or see their entire presentation (it starts at page 6) from the Ontario Waterpower Association’s web site here (an archived copy is here).
As Bracebridge Generation Ltd. clearly states in their Incident Review below, the danger was because some boys “swam through the discharge from the tailrace”.
Exhibit 2: As shown by Bracebridge Generation’s marked-up satellite photograph above, the “Site of Drowning” was the extreme north end of the bay – where the only water flow is due to the directly-adjacent tailrace of their Wilson’s Falls generating station.
Exhibit 3: This entire annual industry conference is solely about hydro-electric generating stations and their operation, not about high water flows in rivers.
That is, the drowning was due to the treacherously-fast and -turbulent flow from the Wilson’s Falls generating station. And note:
- The proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls would have more than TEN TIMES the flow of the Wilson’s Falls generating station.
- While few people visit Wilson’s Falls, or even know where it is (a few km north of Bracebridge), the Bala falls are an extremely popular in-water recreational area.
- While the Wilson’s Falls generating station is “run-of-river” operating continuously at whatever flow the river has, the proposed Bala generating station would be operated in a cycling mode for ⅓ of summer days, where it would start, without warning or local operator present, at about noon, just when people would think it was safe.
All of which would result in the proposed Bala falls generating station being far more of a threat to public safety than the Wilson’s Falls generating station, which tragically, has already proven deadly.
We therefore sent this follow-up letter to the Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor and Councillors.