You make some interesting points about the proposed Enerdu project.
Like you, I’ve tried to keep an open mind on this issue – only four months ago I wrote a piece for the Millstone saying I thought it might not be the catastrophe for our town that some people claimed.
Since then I’ve continued to study the issue. I’ve re-read the OEL-HydroSys final report and annexes several times, attended public meetings, and studied commentary by environmental and fisheries experts. By now my mind is made up: I’m firmly opposed to this project.
Let me respond to some of your points.
Yes, Almonte was once a mill town, and the shape and look of the river have of course changed greatly in the past 200 years. But then again: there has been no significant new construction on the river (other than the MRPC station, more on that below) in a very long time.
In the decades since the last mill shut down, Almonte has become a ‘destination’ town, one defined foremost by the fixed and unchanging look of the river as it flows past those historic buildings. It’s what visitors and locals alike think of as “Almonte” — that lovely sweep of heritage. The construction of a 5,000-square-foot blockhouse in its very heart would destroy that, in my opinion.
This photo, from 1910, shows what I mean: it’s the current Enerdu site, almost unchanged in 113 years:
Regarding the new MRPC power house at the lower falls: no, it didn’t attract much opposition. For one thing, you have to go looking for it to see just how ugly it is. Even if you put in a kayak at Metcalfe Park, as I often do, you’ll barely notice it unless you happen to look that way. So its presence doesn’t affect the beauty or impact of our town. Nor has it had any real effect on flows over the various falls or on the river overall.
More importantly, the MPRC power house is owned by the ratepayers of Mississippi Mills and provides a valuable service to us, the provision of reliable electricity. This too has been a defining part of Almonte, since 1890: a home-grown local power supplier (and one which earns over $2.5 million in annual revenues, money that stays in the community.) This is a very different proposition from an outside private firm whose business is selling hydro to the province. How does that benefit Mississippi Mills?
Regarding this project and the the Green Energy Act: it’s possible to embrace the notion of green energy without much liking the way the previous Ontario government went about trying to encourage it. As for Enerdu, my main green-energy objection is the fact that “being green” is the only real benefit they can boast of for the project. But that would be true of almost any hydroelectric project, no matter how destructive to the local environment and heritage.
I’m puzzled by your comment that “much of the area of the proposed powerhouse is presently dry land even at peak flows.” The image below shows the approximate footprint of the proposed 110′ by 50′ building, at the height of last summer’s drought. In the 26 years I’ve lived here I’ve never seen that area dry:
As for potential flooding: I’m still not convinced on that claim myself. But the matter isn’t as simple as you suggest either. You say: “Obviously, being a power house it will be fully open for water to flow through it.”
That’s not quite accurate. The power house would have a maximum flow-rate, as a given turbine can only handle so much water at a time. In the case of, for instance, heavy spring flooding, “any excess flow above the generation facility’s maximum operational flow would be directed over the weir.” That is, into the space between the 50-foot-wide powerhouse and the far bank. (The latter quote is from Enerdu’s Final Environmental Report.)
Anyway Mark, we’ll have to agree to disagree on some aspects of this issue. I respect your opinions and I appreciate your contribution to this important discussion.