In responding to the concerns about public safety that the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls would create, the proponent and the Ministry of Natrual Resources and Forestry (MNR) both claim that people shouldn’t be in the water in the area. As shown below, this is incorrect and unjustified for the areas which would be made dangerous.
The fact is, the Moon River and this specific area of concern is a navigable waterway, so people have the right to be in the water. There is a warning sign on the Bala north dam, but as shown by the photographs below, extremely-popular in-water recreational activities are far from that warning sign, so we ask; how would unsuspecting visitors be informed exactly when and where the dangers are.
The proponent received environmental approval on the commitment that the water would only be dangerous within their proposed safety booms, but as shown in the image below (click on any image for a larger view), in-water recreation outside of the proposed safety booms would be unacceptably dangerous.
We request that before providing any further approvals, the MNRF require the proponent provide an acceptable Public Safety Plan.
The photographs below were:
- All taken looking down the Moon River (westward), looking over the fenced-in site for the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls. The tailrace flow would then be directed down the centre of the photographs, as shown below.
- Not staged or arranged, this is what happens all summer.
Photograph 1a: At the right are the Town Docks on the Moon River, which are the only public docks on the Moon River. Closer on the right are three private residences and their docks. At the left is at least one red kayak.
Photograph 1b: Zooming-in to the left shows that actually there are two red kayaks and a canoe, plus someone on a stand-up paddleboard. These people are; on a navigable waterway, far from the MNR’s warning sign on the Bala north dam, well outside of the proposed downstream safety boom, yet would be endangered by the flow from the fast and turbulent water exiting the proposed generating station. These people have every right to be where they are and to be safe where they are. Yet they would have no warning or way to know where this dangerous water would be, or when the proposed generating station would begin operation.
Photograph 2a: The canoe and kayak are approaching Township of Muskoka Lakes’ Portage Landing, which is to the south of the proposed site, and to the left of this chain-link fence. The proponent has provided a drawing showing they would create a portage access at this location as part of their restoration of this Township land.
Photograph 2b: The canoe is now to the south of the proposed construction site, and would therefore be outside of the proposed downstream safety boom. Yet it would be just a few feet from the treacherously turbulent and aerated water (in which people – even with life jackets – can sink and drown) would exit the proposed generating station. These people would have no way to know they would be risking their lives by simply approaching a portage from a navigable waterway.
Photograph 3: Boats make wide sweeping turns, and had this motorboat been docking at the Town Docks on the Moon River, it would have travelled through the fast and turbulent water exiting the proposed generating station. Also, water-skiing and wakeboarding are extremely popular in this location. The proponent’s downstream safety boom would not delimit the water they would make dangerous, so people using this navigable waterway would have no way to know where the dangerous water would be, or when it would be dangerous.
Photograph 4: This is a section of a marked-up aerial photograph from a 2010 presentation made by the owner/operator of the Wilson’s Falls generating station. Their lower yellow arrow shows the location where a 16 year-old-boy drowned in 2008 due to the turbulent water exiting their generating station. Note this location is to the side of the tailrace flow, and is 75′ downstream from the generating station. This shows the need to clearly identify to the public the large area made dangerous. And note, the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls would have ten times the flow of the Wilson’s Falls generating station.
Photograph 5b: Zooming-in shows this person is actually crouching on a stand-up paddleboard, and there are two people swimming alongside. Such informal and varied in-water recreation is extremely popular in this location. It would be unprecedented to locate a hydro-electric generating station in the middle of such an area, yet the proponent has not shown they could operate the proposed station safely. How would these unsuspecting people be informed of the extreme dangers the proposed hydro-electric generating station would create.
Photograph 5c: This shows that the above people were crossing the Moon River to get to the Town Docks on the Moon River. Given these are the only public docks on the Moon River, and that there are three private docks even closer to the Bala north falls, they would rightfully be expecting to be safe and expecting that the path they took was safe. But they would have directly passed through the fast and treacherously-turbulent water exiting the proposed generating station, outside of the proposed downstream safety boom. The proponent has not shown how they would inform such people of the dangers the proposed generating station would create.
These photographs show that:
- These people were far from any warning signs, and so had every right to be doing these in-water recreational activities where they were in this navigable waterway.
- They were outside of the proponent’s proposed downstream safety boom, so would have no way to know they were passing through the dangerously fast and turbulent water which would be created by the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls.
- People can learn to judge natural dangers, such as the water entering the Moon River through the Bala south channel. But the water from a hydro-electric generating station would be much more dangerous, as it would:
- Be turbulent – from the rapidly spinning turbine.
- Be aerated – the result is that even people wearing a life jacket can sink and drown.
- Start – without warning – at about noon on summer days, exactly when people would most likely be in the water nearby.
- Be hundreds of feet closer to the popular in-water recreational areas than the Bala south channel which has always been the main flow of water into the Moon River.
Note that the only two drownings in Bala were due to people that did not know how to swim jumping in the water, at least one still wearing his shirt. This tragedy only showed that people that don’t know how to swim should not jump in the water, and therefore has no bearing on in-water recreation in the area.