by Edith Cody-Rice
On Tuesday last, March 20, Enerdu, represented by Cavanagh construction employee Ron Campbell, appeared before the Mississippi Mills Planning and Development Committee to explain the Enerdu project to deepen the Mississippi River at the head of the Almonte falls and drive more water through the Enerdu generator. Enerdu would benefit from a significant increase in revenue from power that it sells to the Ontario Power grid.
According to Campbell, Enerdu intends to hoe ram out (a hoe ram is a vehicle equipped with a jack hammer) 1500 square metres of the river floor during low water flow periods, normally in the summer, and to build a dam with an inflatable bladder at the head of the falls where the flash boards now sit in the summer. Flash boards are temporary wooden boards placed across the river to drive water toward the Enerdu generator. The weir would move forward towards the CPR bridge.
Campbell explained the Jeff Cavanagh bought the Enerdu plant a year ago with the intention of increasing the power output to approximatelly 950 kilowatts. The company has now met with affected organizations and has held two public meetings for select individuals who will be affected by the project. According to Mr Campbell, the condominium board of the Thoburn Mill, across from the the Enerdu plant and the board of the Mississippi River Power Corporation which operates the downstream Brian J. Gallagher generating station, are on side and the project has strong support from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ontario government. Enerdu has also spoken with the CPR about the railway bridge which may be removed or repiared.
The Enerdu project is subject to a Class Environmental Assessment A (see below) which means that Enerdu conducts a self assessment of the environmental impact of the project. Campbell said that the project has a number of advantages: it is an existing low impact run of river facility and this is a small project, easy to build and maintain. The project is at the preliminary engineering drawing stage.
Campbell assured the committee that access to the water below the proposed dam would remain the same as it is today. The project would stabilize the water as it approaches the dam. He is of the view that this project is good for everyone, both upstream and downstream, even the fish whose habitat, he claims, will be improved. The facility will continue to run under the operating regime set out by the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority.
In response to a question by councillor Val Wilkinson about the components and aesthetics of the project, Campbell stated that Enerdu has purchased a system which is comprised of a large automated bladder with a steel top. The bladder will be inflated to hold back water and deflated to allow water to flow. Although the river will be deeper at the head pond (created by the removal of river bed), the height of the river will remain the height when the flash boards are in the river.
This is a 5.5-6 million dollar project and provided permissions are obtained in a timely manner, the work will be completed in a single working season.
Campbell acknowledged that issues have been raised with various ministries and stated that they are being resolved. What issues have been raised was not pursued by the committee. He said there will be some "short term pain" in response to concerns about the sound of a jack hammer piercing the Almonte air in the high tourist season.
Outside the meeting,Campbell was confronted by Pat Vetter, owner of the Menzies House B&B just upriver from the project. She expressed dismay that the sound of a jack hammer throughout the summer will destroy tourism in the town. As a riparian owner (owner of property along the riverbank), Mrs. Vetter has rights. The coommon law indicates that a river may not be altered in such a manner as to affect other riparian owners. Mr Campbell responded that Enerdu will only receive permits to work at periods of low water, which will essentially confine the window of opportunity to the summer.
Campbell refused to confirm to the Millstone on what basis he indicated that the Ministry of Natural Resouces is on side, however he stated that he certainly hopes to start the project this summer. Enerdu consultant Tami Sugarman said that she assumed that in referencing the support of the MNR, Campbell meant that Enerdu was collaborating and cooperating with the MNR. When asked what indications of approval have been given by the Ministry, she did not point to any.