One of the drivers of Bala’s economy is that visitors to Bala can rent canoes and kayaks at Purk’s Place.
The most likely time for anyone to fall or tip out of a canoe or kayak is at the docks when when they are getting into or out of it. In Bala, this would be right at the upstream safety boom and the intake for the proposed hydro-electric generating station would be just 55 m downstream.
The proponent’s own flow simulation shows that the water would be flowing at about 1.2 m/s from the docks to their proposed intake. And every second, tons of water would be flowing into their 35′-deep intake.
At 1.2 m/s it would take only 45 seconds for someone falling in the water at the upstream safety boom to be carried by the current to the proposed intake. And with tons of water being drawn down and in to the proposed intake every second, anyone – regardless of swimming ability or whether they’re wearing a life jacket or not – would be held underwater against the intake trash rack, and they would drown. There would not be an Operator in the proposed generating station, and it would not have an “emergency stop” button on the outside either.
Just 45 seconds from falling in the water to being drowned. That would not be an accident, that would be the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change not realizing that their mandate of protecting the environment includes protecting human life (click on the graphic below for a larger view).
Transport Canada and the MNRF have a “Point of No Return” calculation for how far upstream from a hazard the upstream safety boom should be. Based on this calculation, in early 2011 the MNRF’s Public Safety Measures Plan for the Bala recommended that the upstream safety boom in the Bala north channel be relocated farther upstream, which Transport Canada approved in late 2011 and which was subsequently done.
As detailed here, the Point of No Return calculation shows that the construction of the proposed generating station requires that the upstream safety boom be relocated still farther upstream.
However, even though the Point of No Return calculation in the Public Safety Measures Plan for the Bala dams does not take into account the increased dangers due to the construction of the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, both Transport Canada and the MNRF have stated the upstream safety would not need to be relocated farther upstream. So they are both complicit in there not being enough time for someone somehow being downstream of the upstream safety boom to rescue themselves. So “Murdered in 45 seconds” is their decision.
You might think the upstream safety boom would be helpful to a canoe or kayak, to keep it from entering the danger area. What actually happens is due to the current, your canoe/kayak ends up parallel along the safety boom and tips slightly sideways as the downstream side rides up onto the safety boom due to the current. You can’t paddle on the downstream side because the 16″-diameter safety boom is there and that side is high. And if you paddle on the upstream side you just turn yourself into the safety boom and don’t go anywhere. As you realize how precarious your situation is, what would happen if you tip – and all you can see the the danger downstream as you’re above the safety boom – panic is likely.
You might think, anyone falling in the water should just hang on to the safety boom. There are many problems:
- The safety boom is designed for high visibility and to prevent large boats from travelling over them. It is not designed for people to hang on to them.
- For example, the safety boom is required to extend at least 12″ above the water. As a result, the floats are at least 16″ in diameter, so holding on to one would be like hugging a sideways barrel way above you while having to keep your face above water. And the safety boom is made of slippery plastic and there’s nothing to hold on to. Children’s and many adult’s arms would not be long enough to wrap around the safety boom if they could even get close enough, as they’d be fighting the current.
- The safety boom is so high, that combined with the current, it would cause a canoe or kayak to capsize. This was the cause of the drowning of 19-year-old Victoria Cunningham at the Isle-Maligne hydro-electric generating station near Alma, Quebec in 2008. The canoe she was in was capsized by the upstream safety boom and the current, and she was unable to hang on to the safety boom.
- The safety boom is supposed to be a last line of defence, warning signs are supposed to be upstream of a safety boom, but due to land ownership restrictions in Bala, adequate warning signage could not be installed.
So far we know that the:
- Treacherously turbulent water would extend far outside of the downstream safety boom, deceiving people into thinking the water there would be safe: when it actually would be deadly.
- Proponent refuses to disclose how, or if, they could operate their proposed generating station safely, even though it would be unprecedented to build a hydro-electric generating station as close to docks and in-water recreation.
- Proponent has stated they would not warn the public before starting operation (even though the MNRF requires them to provide such warning), and such warning would be unreliable anyways as the frequent trains passing by would mask the sound.
- Currently, there is almost no flow in the Bala north channel during the summer, so falling out of a canoe there (or holding the Bala regatta just upstream of it, or Scuba diving off Diver’s Point) is safe. As the proposed generating station would change all this, so most flow would be through the Bala north channel, the proponent has not figured out how, or if, their proposed project could be operated safely.
- Proponent would build a portage right beside their proposed generating station, encouraging people to canoe through the treacherously turbulent water which would extend outside of the downstream safety boom.
It is as if the government is saying to the proponent: “If you want to be stupid enough to build it, we’ll be stupid enough to approve it”.