The MNR doesn’t care if the proponent causes flooding of Lake Muskoka
To build their proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, the proponent would need to build a temporary coffer dam in the Bala north channel, and this would reduce the maximum flow through Bala during the time it would be in place.
For years, we have been writing letters to the Ministry of Natural Resources detailing how the proposed construction would have too high a probability of flooding the thousands of properties, docks, and boathouses on Lake Muskoka. The MNR has always replied that they would address this later. We now have some understanding of the MNR’s plan to ensure high flows could be passed through Bala at all times during the proposed construction – and the plan is unworkable.
Part of the problem is that the proponent received environmental approval to only partially obstruct the Bala north channel, but their current plan is to fully obstruct the Bala north channel. Their proposed coffer dam would span the entire Bala north channel, just downstream of the CP Rail bridge.
The MNR’s plan for high flows basically states that if flooding is imminent they would send an e-mail to the proponent who then has 24 hours to be ready to remove the top 9′ of a 105′-width of their planned coffer dam.
The main problem is that the coffer dam could not be lowered on short notice. For example, for six of the nine months the coffer dam would be in place, removing part of the coffer dam would allow uncontrolled flow from Lake Muskoka into the Moon River, as the flow would bypass the Bala north dam through the partially-completed excavation for the proposed generating station, as shown here. But there are many other problems as well, for example, the MNR does not specify how much time the proponent could take to actually remove part of their coffer dam. Or due to the blasting and excavation directly adjacent, the Bala north dam may not be assured to be structurally sound.
As detailed our article here, the MNR has not found fault with any of the reasons we presented why their plan to avoid flooding Lake Muskoka is unworkable. And they refuse to meet with us about this, and they will not inform the public of these plans or accept public input on them.
The MNR’s responsibility for Public Safety
Under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, the MNR has the responsibility to assess whether a location is suitable for a particular project, and if so, to determine whether the proponent’s Plans and Specifications are acceptable. A hydro-electric generating station is technically a dam, as it holds back and controls the flow of water. As such a “Ministry Engineer” – a Professional Engineer licenced to practice in the Province of Ontario who works for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry – must provide the Plans and Specifications approval for the MNR.
Professional Engineers have responsibilties to the public and it is expected they have “identified all actual or potential hazards to the interests of the client, employer or public associated with the work” and “communicated the risks to all affected parties.” Instead of accepting this responsibility, the MNR claims that only the proponent would be responsible for the safe operation of the proposed generating station.
There are several problems with this. For example, it may not be possible for the proposed project as currently designed to be operated safely in the location approved, given the surrounding shoreline and nearby dock ownership. It would be unethical for a Professional Engineer to approve a project without knowing it could be operated safely and without informing the public of the risks.
We have posted more detail in this article.
Cottage Life Show
We will be at the Cottage Life Show, which is Friday April 1 to Sunday April 3, 2016, at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Road, in Mississauga:
- You can purchase your tickets in advance on-line here and save $3.00 by entering STBF16 into the Promotion Code box. As detailed here, at the box office (not on-line) Seniors 65+ get a $5.00 discount Friday, and all get a $4.00 discount after 4:00pm Friday and Saturday (the show closes at 8:00 pm on Friday and 7:00 pm on Saturday). Discounts cannot be combined.
- Our booth is 225, which is in Hall 1 (this is the building closest to Airport Road), highlighted by the red arrow here (the MNR’s booth is at the green arrow).
Our contest for free tickets to the Cottage Life Show
As you’ve seen above, the MNR refuses to address many serious concerns about this proposed project. We’re always looking for ways to both raise public awareness of these concerns and to bring them to the attention of the government of Ontario. And we have three extra pairs of tickets to the Cottage Life Show.
So let’s have some fun with this and make a contest. E-mail us your ideas and contacts for letting the public and province know about the unaddressed public safety and flooding issues that would be created by the proposed construction of the hydro-electric generating station in Bala. Those sending the best suggestions will receive a pair of free tickets to the Cottage Life Show. We’re at info@SaveTheBalaFalls.com
Legal Action costs
We have now paid all the costs required for the legal action we initiated last year. We did this fully and promptly:
- To show that we are a responsible and focussed community organization.
- In preparation for possible future legal action, as past behaviour can impact this in several ways.
As you see from some document links in recently-posted articles at SaveTheBalaFalls.com, we are restricting some material to Members of SaveTheBalaFalls.com. Details on becoming a member are at our web site’s Membership tab. If you have any questions, contact us as Membership@SaveTheBalaFalls.com.