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

Apr 222017

Normally when a company is bought there is a premium paid over the value of the physical assets such as the desks and computers. The accounting term for this premium paid is “goodwill”, which includes the company’s reputation, employees, relationships, plans, and industry knowledge.

For the proponent Swift River Energy Limited, this goodwill is so impaired that it is a liability. The company has no employees, the work is all done by outside contractors and hired companies so it has no industry knowledge, the relationship with the community is two-way contempt, and the proposed construction and operation plans have major unaddressed issues that have proven to have no acceptable solution. As the company has no employees, assets, income or operations, it appears to have a negative net worth.

Here are some examples of the value of these plans, and of how the proponent has earned this reputation (that is, by being bullying jerks, they have royally and permanently pissed-off the community, but here are some more business-like statements):

  1. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) required the proponent to conduct an Economic Impact Study. For this, the proponent stated that: “local businesses will be surveyed regarding project impacts on the local economy both during the construction period and after”, and the Township of Muskoka Lakes was informed the study would assess the: “positive and negative economic impacts of the construction phase of the project” as well as the: “positive and negative impacts of the operating phase of the project”.
    When the study was completed, the proponent concluded from it that: “the project’s economic impacts will be positive”. This is an infuriating and deceptive fabrication, as the study did not examine or even solicit negative impacts. Local businesses were not asked about negative impacts, and tourists were not interviewed.
  2. The proponent committed for their 2012 Addendum to their Environmental Assessment that their current Alternative 1A proposal would not rise above street level. But we now know the proponent’s ugly concrete building would rise more than 25′ above the street, blocking passers-by’s view down the Moon River.
  3. Also in their 2012 Addendum the proponent stated: “The footprint and elevation of the Alternative 1A plan presented in this Addendum illustrates the largest building size required for both configurations. Therefore, this size may indeed be reduced following detailed design prior to construction.” However instead of the same or smaller, we now know that their building’s footprint would be 50% larger.
  4. After convening and controlling a series of farce “Flow Distribution Committee” meetings and committing in writing there would be more scenic flow down the Bala falls on long weekends, they secretly changed this to only allow such flow when there is enough water to run their proposed turbine.
  5. After stating for their 2009 Environmental Assessment that the minimum flow through the proposed generating station would be 14 m³/s, the proponent increased this by more than 40% to 20 m³/s without informing the public. This substantially increases the danger to the public.
  6. After stating for their 2009 Environmental Assessment that their proposed generating station would operate run-of-river (as fluctuations may “pose problems related to boating and other aquatic activities along the Bala Reach”) the proponent changed to a cycling mode of operation where their proposed generating station would often begin operation, without warning, at about noon on summer days. This would be extremely dangerous to the in-water recreation in the area.
  7. After stating in their proposal that their proposed project “will not generally diminish the public’s enjoyment of the area for swimming, boating …”, we now know they would make the water in front of people’s private docks and in front of the only public docks on the Moon River too dangerous.
  8. Even more unacceptable is that the proponent would deceive the public as this dangerous water would extend outside of the proponent’s downstream safety boom, so the public would have no way of knowing the extent of the water which the proponent’s proposed generating station would make dangerous.
  9. After stating for their 2012 Environmental Assessment that their “Alternative 1A will not impact any of the listed properties”, we now find they would cut down all the trees in the heritage-listed Portage Landing.
  10. After agreeing that they would not locate settling tanks in either Margaret Burgess Park or the Don’s Bakery parking lot, plans they provided to the MOECC showed they would do both. The self-serving proponent providing conflicting information or selectively withholding information has happened before. For example it appears they have not disclosed to the District Municipality of Muskoka that the proposed cofferdam could damage the Muskoka Road 169 bridge.
  11. The proponent does not respond to e-mailed questions and has not updated their web site in over a year.
  12. The proponent refuses to provide any information on how they would operate their proposed project safely. All we know is that the proposed project would:
    • Create dangerous water extending outside of the proposed downstream safety boom. This would not comply with the Canadian Dam Association’s public safety guidelines.
    • Often start operation at about noon on summer days, without warning. This would not comply with the MNRF’s public safety measures.
  13. In a pre-election speech on September 22, 2014, the current Mayor Furniss of the Township of Muskoka Lakes stated the proponent had all required permits to begin construction. Clearly he was deceived by the proponent as more than 2½ years later the proponent still needs many approvals from the; municipality, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, before they could construct their proposed project.
  14. The Moon River Property Owners’ Association planned their 5th annual family-oriented free cake, music, and ice cream Canada Day celebration in 2015 but were informed a few days before it that the proponent would instruct the Ontario Provincial Police to arrest anyone attending this event. 
  15. Over a year ago, apparently because they were frustrated and embarrassed at not being able to show any visible progress after 11 years of bumbling around, the proponent cut down all the trees on their proposed construction site and put up a chain link fence. This unnecessary ugliness is still what greets visitors to Bala, and is a monument to Swift River Energy’s mismanagement and ineptitude.

If the proponent had any assets more desirable that the above well-deserved rotten reputation, they might be worth something, but instead of crucial construction approvals they have problems:

  1. Municipal:
    1. The proponent does not have the needed driveway entrance permit to Portage Landing.
    2. The proponent does not have approval for the required tie-backs for the shoring needed to prevent Muskoka Road 169 from collapsing into their proposed excavation.
    3. During the proposed construction, their upstream cofferdam would risk damaging the Muskoka Road 169 bridge over the Bala north channel.
    4. After the proposed construction, when the proposed station is not operating, the concrete deflector wall would cause erosion and would undermine and damage the bridge’s abutments.
  2. Provincial, MOECC:
    1. The proponent’s environmental assessment approval will soon expire and due to the many environmentally-significant changes to it they would require, it isn’t clear how they could receive environmental approval for their current plans.
    2. The proponent does not have the required Environmental Compliance Approval for the construction process. Instead they developed and submitted to the MOECC plans which could not be implemented as the proposed settling tanks could not be put in the locations shown.
  3. Provincial, MNRF:
    1. The proponent does not have the required approval for construction under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act as the plans and specifications they developed and submitted to the MNRF had too many deficiencies, such as for the upstream cofferdam.
    2. The proposed generating station requires that a concrete deflector wall be constructed in the Bala north channel, but the MNRF cannot allow such an obstruction to flow as it would result in flooding Lake Muskoka during high-flow events.

Instead of dealing with risks, Swift River has left them unknown and outstanding. Instead of communicating with the public, Swift River does not provide updates and does not respond. Instead of honouring commitments made, Swift River makes self-serving changes without disclosing these to stakeholders.

Swift River Energy has had more than 11 years to figure this out and has shown they cannot. This proposed project is a mismanaged and intractable mess, ready to be a liability to any group or organization that wishes to get involved.

  4 Responses to “Swift River Energy Limited: Lies and liabilities instead of “goodwill””

  1. swift river has a lot of money, and they will be going ahead with construction of this project commencing Sept 1, 2017. Unless local residents seriously get their mayor, council and the ministry of environment the stop it.

    However often the two fastest ways to stop a project are:

    1) find out who is buying the electricity from the project- they will likely have a long term EPA (Energy Purchase Agreement) and this is the basis for the funding of the project, they won’t build it if they don’t have a buyer for the product (electricity). The buyer needs to know they will be boycotted and lose way more business if they enter into business with this seller and when they cancel their EPA then the project stops.

    2) first nations intervention- if there are any ties to first nations they can often cause enough bad press to stop a project but care must be taken because often the project will just try to take advantage of the first nations by offering them more money as a cash buyout or interests in the project or promising to hire their people during construction and operations phases, but it never works out and the first nations will get a bad deal, the key is to ensue they stick to their plan of stopping the project and don’t get seduced by easy short term payouts.

    good luck!

    • Hello Mike, in this case, the Bala proponent has a Feed-In Tariff contract from the Ontario government (IESO), which commits that the government (using our money) will buy any electricity the proponent generates (even if Ontario doesn’t need it and even if Ontario could get it less expensively elsewhere), for 40 years, at up to 17 ¢/kW•h.

  2. Thanks for publishing this very detailed, well articulated and informative document. After all of their dangerous bumbling, I can’t understand how our various levels of government still support it? If I was a government official I’d stay very far away from Swift River……

    Hopefully Swift will give up on this project before any stupid government official gives them the go ahead. I hear that they lost their big investors.

  3. It would seem smart for Swift River to cut their losses and go away.

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