Mississippi Mills Mayor John Levi, with permission of the author, Mark Priddle shared the following letter to Bryn Matthews, Chair of the Mississippi RiverWatchers with the Millstone
I am a resident of Almonte and have taken an interest in the whole Enerdu discussion. I am trying to be objective in my analysis of the information from both the proponent and those opposed to it. I attended the April 11th meeting (for most of the time) and part of last year’s meeting at the Town Hall. There certainly were a number of passionate pleas against the project last week.
Our family really enjoys Almonte and have taken an interest in its history and also participate in many present-day events in the community. To me it seems that both sides in the Enerdu debate are not behaving rationally. I listened to the presentations intently last week and I was surprised at some of the things that speakers were trying to get the audience to believe.
Almonte was founded as a mill town and this is very plain to see. The river is lined with mills and other buildings which have profoundly changed the river. I am quite sure that the Mississippi was totally different in 1900 compared to 1800. There have been, and still are, numerous weirs, water control structures and changes to the river in the few hundred metres between the fairgrounds and Metcalfe Park. I am sure that the River was very different between Carleton Place and Almonte prior to the construction of dams in Carleton Place, Appleton and Almonte. As mentioned by MVC, there are many other structures on the Mississippi. It now seems like all these are evil if I listen to the Riverwatchers.
The MRPC dam and generating station are a significant change in the natural course of the River as are many other features in Almonte. I took great interest in the construction project as it was very interesting. It appears that it was a much larger project than what Enerdu is proposing, however I do not recall any opposition to it. We paddled from Metcalfe Park the spring after the coffer dam broke and saw all kinds of construction debris in the River, including large tarps stuck around rocks in the rapids a few km downstream of Almonte. It is strange that this did not seem to bother anyone at the time. I do understand that Brad mentioned how things were not exactly as planned with the MRPC project, however it seems that its impact was bigger than Enerdu’s will be, but no one seems to think the expansion of the MRPC plant was a bad thing.
It is also interesting to know that there may have to be a lot more construction to repair the broken penstock. This will likely require a lot more work in the riverbed again. I also note that the nice falls next to the MRPC plant are often completely dry, but I have never heard anyone complain about this. I have many photos of our family standing on the falls (with no water) before all the signs were put up – this never seems to have deterred tourists from visiting Almonte.
One other interesting note from the April 11 meeting was that people seemed most upset about the Green Energy Act. This is puzzling because many residents of Mississippi Mills have supported the Ontario Liberals for years. The Green Energy Act was to be McGuinty’s amazing legacy for the province. To me it would seem like the Enerdu project is exactly the type of thing that Mr. McGuinty was trying to encourage. I am not sure why people are so upset with Mr. Cavanagh and Enerdu when their anger should be at our elected government. If I recall correctly, the McGuinty government (who I did not vote for) felt that the promotion of Green Energy was so important that the Act had to trump local rights to evaluate projects and at the same time provide outrageous compensation for the energy that was produced by “green” methods.
I was surprised that one speaker mentioned that Mr. Cavanagh is only in it for the money when thousands of Ontario residents (including many in Mississippi Mills) jumped onto the Green Energy bandwagon and slapped up solar panels to get rich quick themselves. To me, a small hydroelectric project is much more “green” than a field full of solar panels that only generate electricity for 3-4 hours per day on average.
On the subject of solar farms, I would like to correct Mr. O’Malley about opposition to Green Energy. I agree that much opposition has been directed at wind farms, but there has been growing and vigorous opposition to solar farms throughout the province.
In my opinion, one of the biggest deceptions of the evening related to the flood potential from the construction of the Enerdu plant. We were shown pictures of the 1998 flood and the patio of the Iron Works (now Barley Mow). Other pictures showed the falls and river at peak flow. We were then given of a description of the detailed elevation survey of the downtown. It then seemed surprising that we were then told that, if the water level rose above the level of the Barley Mow patio, the downtown would flood. This is very strange since I only recall flooding upstream (i.e. fairgrounds and Water Street) during the 1998 flood. The downtown was very dry even though the water level was above the patio level at the Barley Mow. I also recall flooding at the MRPC powerhouse with water flowing down the street before being diverted back into the river.
Even more disconcerting was the statement that the flooding will be much worse with the Enerdu powerhouse in place because it will reduce the width of the River by 30%. This assumes that the powerhouse will be a solid block of concrete stuck in the river. Obviously, being a power house it will be fully open for water to flow through it. If the Enerdu plans are correct, the riverbed will be deepened above and below the powerhouse to allow more water flow through it. Logically then, the construction of the proposed powerhouse will lessen the potential for flooding. I think speakers also mentioned that the Enerdu plant is designed to increase its capacity by allowing more water through the plant as opposed to relying on a higher head. This would then confirm that the plant would reduce the probability of a flood because it allows more water to flow through it.
I also noted that much of the area of the proposed powerhouse is presently dry land even at peak flows. It is therefore mystifying that the Riverwatchers are trying to tell people that a big concrete box that allows water to flow through it will cause flooding in downtown Almonte!
On the subject of noise, I again draw your attention to the MRPC powerhouse. It was located opposite the Victoria Woollen Mill for about 85 years with 2 generators larger than the proposed Enerdu generator. I often walked by with my children and there was only a faint hum. I don’t every recall the occupants of the Victoria Woollen Mill or residents across Main Street ever being tormented by the industrial roar of the generators even though they were only a few metres away. I am not sure how the 1 MW Enerdu facility will be so much worse.
The subject of the recreational use of the railway bridge and the pool above present dam left me puzzled. I fully agree that too many residents of Almonte don’t get enough exercise, however I don’t think they are all presently getting their safe aerobic exercise by jumping off the bridge. I went today to check and it seems that the railway bridge is still private property and there are ‘no trespassing’ signs. Not sure why the Mississippi River Watchers is promoting illegal and dangerous recreation in town. There is a great beach at the fairgrounds (only as a result of the downstream dam and imported sand) that is a safer alternative.
So, in summary, I guess that I am saying that your organization has an important role to play but it could take a more objective tone and stop spreading the misinformation in the same way that you claim the proponent is spreading. Right now I am not fully convinced that the project is going to be devastating for Almonte and area, but I also am not sure it is risk-free.
Thank you for allowing me to share this.
P.S. Just to clarify, I worked for WESA many years ago, but had nothing to do with hydro power, green energy or Enerdu.