Anyone who has glanced at the river in the heart of Almonte recently will see that Jeff Cavanagh and his Enerdu company are moving ahead with their hydroelectric project by the Maple Leaf Mill on Main Street.
The Millstone has been opposed to this project since we first reported on it almost exactly five years ago. We believed — and still do — that it was too big, too ambitious, and posed serious environmental risks, especially to the Appleton wetlands.
But that debate, it seems, is over.
In those five years Mr. Cavanagh has carefully followed every step in the approval process for his project. Every level of government involved has signed off on his firm’s environmental and heritage impact assessments, and to our knowledge opponents have no avenues of appeal left. The project, we believe, is going ahead and will be completed.
So what’s next?
Community opposition to Enerdu has been vocal, well-organized and sincere; community support for Enerdu has been more muted and intermittent but equally sincere.
Neither point of view is either wrong or right – they’re simply different. They represent a focus on abstract issues like the environment and heritage on the one hand, and on concrete issues like jobs and industrial progress on the other. It can be hard — as we’ve seen these past five years — to find a middle ground.
But we need to. This issue shouldn’t divide our lovely, friendly town into warring camps. We need to move on.
Last year we reported on a submission Enerdu made to the town’s Design Advisory Committee. The company said it had engaged the architectural firm Ventin Group to draft designs for the project that would make it as attractive and suited to its setting as possible. Some of the ideas discussed were:
- generous use of glass on the upper story to maximize transparency
- extension of a waterfall ‘curtain’ along a portion of the façade
- a living green wall of plants on a portion of the façade
- public or semi-public access to exterior decks and/or a portion of the interior
In our view these are interesting ideas. If Enerdu were to commit to such an approach we believe that could go a fair way towards addressing concerns about the heritage impact of the project.
Stephen Brathwaite from the committee has sent us this architect’s plan, showing the glass upper section and water flowing over the lower section. This seems a promising starting point.
We invite Enerdu to send us more detailed plans once available so that the community can see just what our river will look like once this project is done.
In the meantime, let’s please keep our discussions on this issue civil, courteous and constructive.