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

Sep 302015
 

Summary
Some very good news – we now have confirmation that the District Municipality of Muskoka owns the riverbed under their Muskoka Road 169 bridge over the Bala north channel.

In combination with several other developments, this gives our Township and District Councillors the means, the motive, and the opportunity to stop the construction of the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls. This is big, as municipal elected officials that have always justified their position of facilitating the proponent with the reasoning that they can’t stop the proposed project, now have to decide if they are really trying to get the best outcome for Bala or not.

Already, we are extremely happy that Township of Muskoka Lakes Councillors Linda Barrick-Spearn, Allen Edwards, and Gault McTaggart supported Councillor Phil Harding’s Resolution requesting the District not permit the proponent’s need to blast and excavate below the District’s bridge. But there will be many more meetings and votes, so your continued support and communication to elected officials remains important.

Read on, for all the details …


What we learned in the Wizard of Oz, from Glinda, the Good Witch of the South …

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

Similarly, we have recently learned that the District Municipality of Muskoka and the Township of Muskoka Lakes do have the power to stop construction of the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, with these three no-cost steps

  1. Township does not lease their Portage Landing or parking lots to the proponent
  2. District does not permit excavation or construction trucks under their bridge
  3. District does not permit the Muskoka Road 169 shoulder widening

And no need for ruby slippers or to “tap your heels together three times”!

So those three steps would be the means. The motive would be:

  • For the Township, reducing their liability …
    • People would reach the extremely dangerous and unpredictable water from the proposed generating station from Township-owned or -maintained land, so the Township would have liability. The Township is therefore obligated to reduce their liability by taking actions to reduce the risk. The most effective action would be the Township not facilitating the proposed construction, for example, by not leasing their Portage Landing land to the proponent.
       
  • For the District, eliminating the risk to their bridge …
    • The construction of the proposed generating station would create a significant risk of damage to the District’s 50 year old Muskoka Road 169 bridge over the Bala north channel. The District can completely eliminate this risk by not permitting excavation of, or construction trucks on, the District’s riverbed below this bridge.
       

And the next opportunity would be the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council meeting on October 16, 2015, where the Mayor and Councillors will decide next steps. Let them know your thoughts, for example:

E-mail Township of Muskoka Lakes Councillors Linda Barrick-Spearn, Allen Edwards, and Gault McTaggart and congratulate them for standing up for Bala last week by voting to request the District not permit the proponent’s blasting and excavation below the District’s bridge.

E-mail the Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor and all the Councillors and let them know that for the first time in the ten year history of this proposed project, the municipality has the power; to stop the proposed project, to prevent drownings, to protect the Heritage Attributes and to save the 100 trees on Portage Landing, to avoid years of construction mess, to ensure the District’s bridge is not damaged, to stop spending money on a facilitator for the Bala Hydro Working Committee and a lawyer for the Portage Landing Lease negotiation and professionals for the OMB hearing for the Heritage Conservation District, and to keep Bala’s parking lots available for visitors.
 


Detail
Here is a summary of the current situation, with links for more detail.

  1. The generating station proposed would be unacceptably dangerous
    1. As detailed here, visiting 32 nearby and similarly-sized hydro-electric generating stations shows that they are never built as close to public and private docks and never built as close to in-water recreational areas as the proponent plans for Bala.
    2. As detailed here, a third-party organization with expertise in in-water recreation has confirmed this proposed generating station would be extremely dangerous and the proponent has not presented any plans on how it could be operated safely.
    3. As detailed here, the proponent has changed their plans so the operation of their proposed generating station would be even more dangerous than when they received some approvals a few years ago.
    4. As detailed here, the proposed Bala generating station would have more than TEN TIMES the flow of a nearby generating station which caused a drowning in 2008.
    5. As detailed here, Transport Canada’s calculations show that the construction of the proposed generating station would require the upstream safety boom to be relocated farther upstream, which would, obstruct the Bala Portage, bankrupt a local business, and depending on the safety factor used, also prevent use of both Diver’s Point and the Town Docks on Bala Bay.
       
  2. The municipality would have liability
    As detailed here, people would reach the water made extremely dangerous and unpredictable through Township-owned or -maintained property, so it would be argued that the Township has some liability for injuries or fatalities. The Courts would then look to the Township’s acts of omission or commission which resulted in the accident.
     
  3. The proposed construction would threaten crucial infrastructure
    As detailed here, the proponent’s construction plans would risk damage to the District’s Muskoka Road 169 bridge over the Bala north channel. This is crucial infrastructure as the detour is 50 km, which would be a huge problem for emergency response vehicles, school buses, local business deliveries, and the general public.
     
  4. The municipality can eliminate this liability and risk
    As detailed here, the Township of Muskoka Lakes and District Municipality of Muskoka can take three no-cost steps to eliminate this liability and risk:

    1. The Township not lease Portage Landing or their parking lots to the proponent. This would have the added benefits of; not impacting the heritage designations, not permitting clear-cutting 100 trees, and not impacting local businesses by removing the parking their customers need.
    2. The District not permit blasting and excavation trucks on their riverbed below their bridge. This would ensure this crucial infrastructure is not damaged.
    3. The District not permit widening the shoulder of Muskoka Road 169. This would have the added benefit that pedestrians could continue to walk on the west side of Muskoka Road 169, and there would not be a dangerous 10′-high retaining wall built there.
       
  5. What you can do to save the Bala falls
    … and prevent drownings
    … and ensure the District’s bridge is not damaged
    … and save over 100 trees from being clear-cut from Portage Landing

    1. E-mail Township of Muskoka Lakes Councillors Linda Barrick-Spearn, Allen Edwards, and Gault McTaggart and congratulate them for standing up for Bala last week by voting to request the District not permit the proponent’s blasting and excavation below the District’s bridge.
    2. Write Letters to the Editor of Muskoka and other newspapers.
    3. E-mail the Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor and all the Councillors and let them know that for the first time in the ten year history of this proposed project, the municipality has the power; to stop the proposed project, to prevent drownings, to protect the Heritage Attributes and to save the 100 trees on Portage Landing, to avoid years of construction mess, to ensure the District’s bridge is not damaged, to stop spending money on a faciltator for the Bala Hydro Working Committee and a lawyer for the Portage Landing Lease negotiation and professionals for the OMB hearing for the Hertiage Conservation District, and to keep Bala’s parking lots available for visitors.
    4. Contact your Councillors (Township of Muskoka Lakes here, District Municipality of Muskoka here), asking what they will do.
       
  6. Now is the time to make sure our municipal politicians know that they do have a choice. Talk to them. And contact newspapers and radio stations to let them know. And discuss the situation with your friends and family.

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