by Edith Cody-Rice
The Enerdu project to hoe ram out a large section of the Mississippi River bed, to install an Obermeyer weir across the river and to build a power house in the middle of the Mississippi River at the centre of Almonte has been given the go ahead by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). Resource Operation Supervisor of the Kemptville MNRF, Scott Lee, confirmed that his agency has completed an assessment under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act. The project received approval to proceed in mid June. The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change has renewed the permit to take water for the current generating station and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority has issued a permit under Ontario Regulation 153/06 (Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses). This will allow Enerdu to build an access road to the river construction site.
Mr. Lee stated that the MNRF has determined that the footprint of the facility which will occupy the river bed would involve use of Crown Land. One portion of the Crown land in question is eligible for a quit claim as it appears to have been occupied by Enerdu’s predecessors for 60 years without interference from the provincial government. Another portion of the river bed is owned by the Crown which will sell it to Enerdu.
When questioned about the effect of the project on the Rapids Clubtail dragonfly, an endangered species with a protected habitat along the Mississippi River, Mr. Lee stated that Enerdu did assessments and the MNRF received reports of sightings of the dragonfly from public. They hired two of their own biologists to look at the site and ultimately decided that the normal construction process would not impact this protected species and no further authorization was needed. Mississippi Mills did its own study which reached a different conclusion
Sources have told the Millstone that the town does not have site plan control over the Enerdu project. Green energy projects in Ontario are outside the control of the municipalities in which they are built, and do not pay local municipal taxes.
The town allows the temporary curb protection ramp that Enerdu has laid down on Ottawa Street to allow access to a property adjacent adjacent to the construction site that Enerdu has purchased to build a road to the construction site. A worker putting up fences for Enerdu stated that work on the access road was imminent.
A comprehensive study published by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists found that the operation of increased generating capacity at the Enerdu site will not provide a net benefit to the provincial power grid as the operation of the Enerdu facility will decrease the power output from the Appleton generating station upstream.
Government experts praised a Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists study which concluded that the die back of the protected ANSI wetlands at Appleton were due to the water level raised by the insertion of flash boards at the Enerdu site by predecessor owners the Dupuis family. The new generating operation has committed to retain the river level at the maximum provided in the Mississippi River Water Management Plan (MRWMP) which came into effect in 2006 and which incorporated these increased water levels.
Enerdu is owned by Jeff Cavanagh, son of the founder of Cavanagh Construction Tom Cavanagh. His project manager, Ron Campbell, explained in a public meeting held in 2012 that operating a hydro generating station has been a dream of Mr. Cavanagh since he was a child. The project will provide jobs during construction but there will be no increase in personnel (one individual) in the continuing operation of the new generating station. Supporters of the project cite the installation of the Obermeyer Weir, an adjustable weir worth several million dollars which will be installed at Enerdu expense and which will obviate the need for flash boards.