I suggested at the public meeting at the Old Town Hall on Wednesday night, that the two individuals representing Enerdu were very skilled and effective salespeople for their project, working hard to appear credible. They owned the meeting last night, with more time to promote their project than others had to question it.
I also stated that they presented this project as a modest and environmentally benign proposal that, among other things, was "green", designed to improve the fish habitat, and not generate much if any profit for the dedicated owner who wanted to support "green" energy. I interpreted all they said as an effort to convey the proposal as a modest improvement over their existing hydro facility, one that would be visibly attractive and could promote tourism with site visits. They did emphasize that for a period of 2 to 4 weeks the noise of rock drilling would be very loud and disruptive. To me, their overarching message was that this was a very modest proposal, a natural evolution and improvement, that is going to happen very soon. A done deal. But we are happy to listen to you all.
I also suggested directly to them that no one should be MISLED by their sales pitch. Someone must protect the Public Interest. I don't see who that may be other than a vigilent public and media. There is a "policy gap" for Provincial policy long favoured micro hydro projects but our knowledge and experience today now views such hydro projects as having the potential for grave destructive environmental impacts, and this one especially, excavating a large area of the river bed, what I called the Rape of the river bed, is a major intrusion into a natural and extremely precious environmental and heritage asset, akin to a mini James Bay disaster. I acknowledged the previous speaker's expert comments (he had worked for Enviroment Canada and had undertaken many enviromental assessments) on the release of heavy metals into the river in extensive drilling, and his other very valuable points on other environmental impacts.
I met earlier yesterday with Paul Lehman of the MVCA and a few others. I was very surprised then, and later at the public meeting, with his hands off posture on this project, quite a skilled official at skating around the issues. Of course, am sure he is a dedicated public servant, but his agency is a political creature and is forced to be responsive to the local governments which control it. There appeared to be absolutely no interest by MVCA in the fish habitat question other than the requirement that his agency comment on the proposal and given the massive drilling and excavation, his call for DFO to consider the question of fish habitat — I could only quickly read his two page comments but he suggested it was readily available to the public. Paul did not know if the endangered fish, the River Red Horse, was present above the Falls, as it is below. One wonders what has he been doing for decades working at MVCA??
He did state what I see is a course that perhaps we should pursue: call for a Full Environmental Assessment (I don't recall the exact term). The effect would be to ensure a far more thorough and embracive study of the full impacts of the project. It could of course delay the project.
There were, surprisingly, quite a large number of residents who suggested that they had not been notified by Enerdu about the public meetings held to date. This raises the question as to whether the process they have launched is legitimate.
Since making my comments, others have noted some serious questions on two important claims made by the Enerdu representatives at the meeting. It has been pointed out that the proposed new building will extend much further into the river bed than indicated, and that the size of the excavation of the river bed was very much larger than Enerdu stated at the meeting.
Messages on this project, I would think, should be addressed to the Premier and Provincial Ministers, who ultimately appear to hold the leading responsibility to give this project the green light, or not.