by Shaun McLaughlin

first published in Shaun on Council

On Tuesday May 21, Council unanimously passed a motion co-written by Alex Gillis and me (with editorial input from Councillors Wilkinson, Abbott, Watters and Cameron) that finally resulted in a political statement about Enerdu. In it the Town asks that the Province not approve the project unless five key issues are satisfactorily resolved.The full text of the motion follows. The Town will mail the motion to the Premier, several cabinet ministers and key Queen’s Park bureaucrats.

The Motion

WHEREAS although Council of the Town of Mississippi Mills recognizes that it has no formal approval authority in the matter of the Enerdu hydroelectric project in Almonte, Council does have a responsibility to represent the interests and well being ofits residents;

AND WHEREAS several significant issues remain unresolved and there is great concern in the community over this controversial project;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council wants the following issues satisfactorily resolved before the Province approves this project:

Issue 1: Re-evaluate the operating water levels permitted in the Mississippi River Water Management Plan (MRWMP). On November 22, 2012, the Standing Advisory Committee of the MRWMP recommended that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) reopen the water management plan for Reach 18 of the Mississippi River to determine the cause of the wetland die-off upstream from Almonte and to adjust the water management plan where appropriate. No reply to this request has been received. The zone of influence for the proposed hydroelectric plant is supposed to be 250 metres, while it now seems to back the water up several kilometres.

Issue 2: Perform hydraulic modeling to determine any potential for the project to increase flood risk beside and below the power house. Sandbagging was required to prevent flooding of the downtown in 1998 and this remains a major concern.

Issue 3: Determine if the scale of the proposed project is appropriate. The proposed project claims to be an expansion of existing infrastructure but the scope of the project implies a new project. It entails construction of an entirely new power house at a different location, and replacement of the existing dam and weir with an entirely new dam and weir.

Issue 4: Determine if water management of the existing plant and the proposed plant fits the definition of run-of-river. The project is presented as a run-of-river hydroelectric plant but flow is currently turned on and off to take advantage of daily FIT pricing.

Issue 5: Evaluate the potential loss of natural and heritage assets and the resulting degradation of the community’s character. The project site is located in the heart of Almonte’s historic downtown and is valued greatly by both businesses and citizens. Many new residents and visitors, notably day trippers from Ottawa, are drawn by the picturesque river scene with its grand waterfalls. There is a major concern that the new structures in the river, including the large generation building, new dam and large weir will compromise this scene. The applicant will give no firm assurance about the location of the dam and the resultant effect on the look of the stepped waterfall. Further no assurances about consistent water flows over the falls have been given.