RiverWatchers respond to out-dated letter from former MNR minister, submitted by Councillor Denzil Ferguson

Enerdu flashboards on the Mississippi River at Almonte
Enerdu flashboards on the Mississippi River at Almonte

The August 28, 2014 issue of the Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette contained a letter from David Orazietti, Ontario’s former Minister of Natural Resources, (MNR) which was submitted by Councillor Denzil Ferguson “to clarify information regarding the Mississippi River water levels”. The letter is a response to Mississippi Mills Council following a meeting with a Council delegation on December 9, 2013 during which information was presented that showed Enerdu operations were causing increased water levels in the Appleton Wetland that has resulted in a massive dieback of maple trees in the wetland.

This out-dated letter from the former Minister from March 12, 2014 was based on inaccurate information that has since been proven to be wrong by the Mississippi RiverWatchers. Mr. Orazietti indicates that MNR has located “photographic evidence from 2001 that shows flashboards in essentially the same configuration/height as the present day”. From this he concludes that “there has not been a significant change in the use of flashboards and, therefore, high water did not cause the dieback”.

 The recently published report by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, entitled The Appleton Wetland; Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action, does corroborate that the MNR photographs from 2001, and others that were discovered dated 2001 and 2002, that show flashboards that are exactly as they are today. Those photos do, however, provide evidence that there was an increase in flashboard height just prior to 2001, and combined with a change in summer water use strategy, this has resulted in a significant rise in summer water levels in the wetland and is the direct cause of the death of a major portion of the maples.

It is unfortunate that Councillor Ferguson has chosen to use this outdated letter “to clarify” the issue, and apparently to justify his voting position at the August 12 meeting of the Committee of the Whole on a motion to formally withdraw any implied support for the Enerdu generating station expansion.

The MNR position as proclaimed by former Minister Orazietti is clearly wrong, and RiverWatchers sincerely hope that the MVFN report will provide the impetus necessary to get MNR moving on an amendment to the Mississippi River Water Management Plan that will lower water levels to the point that the Appleton Wetland can recover. Strong support of this goal on the part of Mississippi Mills Council will help, and we applaud those Council members who are working actively in that direction. We are less impressed by the actions of Mayor Levi and Councillors Ferguson and Minille.