Almonte resident Maureen Dagg posted the following letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne today. She posted similar letters to
- Glen Murray (Minister for the Environment and Climate Change)
- Bob Chiarelli (Minister of Energy)
- Bill Mauro (Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry)
- the entire Town Council (by e-mail)
- Jack MacLaren (our MPP) (by e-mail)
Message to the Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Ms. Kathleen Wynne
August 18, 2014
Dear Ms. Wynne:
I am not sure if this issue has come to your attention, but the Green Energy Initiative has inadvertently unleashed a storm of controversy in the beautiful town of Almonte, part of the Town of Mississippi Mills. http://www.mississippimills.ca/en/index.asp
I am writing you today because I think that it has also unleashed something potentially very embarrassing for the Liberal Government: A massive ANSI-protected wetland die-off.
A company by the name of Enerdu would like to upgrade their power plant (originally an old flour mill) to generate more hydro electricity, which, as we know, is a very green form of energy.
Our town is divided over the location and look of the actual power plant, as it would be right in the middle of the crowning glory of the town, our beautiful historic waterfalls. And people don’t see the point of it, truth be told, since Almonte and neighbouring Appleton boast three hydro plants already, one of which is owned by Enerdu (the one that they would like to drastically upgrade). Almonte is certainly doing its share for the Green Energy Initiative. And we are proud of it.
I’ve been working very hard to try to come to grips with the Enerdu issue. I have tried to be a voice of reason in the online debate, and have had many phone calls and emails with people on both sides of the issue. I just don’t like our townsfolk being divided in this way.
I’ve been able to remain pretty neutral, all told, until recently. It seems to me that Enerdu has caused the die-off of vast portions of a large, protected (ANSI) wetland that exists upriver from Almonte. They did it by increasing the size of the weir boards that are put in place during the low-water summer months, in order to generate more power. And they would like to continue to do this in order to generate even more when they expand.
I have spent a good deal of time reading the recently-released Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) report on the Appleton Wetland. https://millstonenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/5-FinalWetlandReport.pdf
I am not a biologist, so I have to rely on biologists for the conditions that wetlands require for survival. All I have to rely on is formal logic, and with my background in mathematics and computer science, I’m not too bad at that. Having said that, I could have made some mistake.
The issue being discussed right now has to do with water levels, and whether or not the weir board height was changed (perhaps illegally). I believe that it indeed has been increased. I have included, in an appendix below my signature, my reasons for this belief, in order to keep this letter reasonably short.
Ms. Wynne, I am sorry to have to point this out, but I believe that my logic and the field naturalists’ report shows that the previous Enerdu owner increased weir board heights and caused a massive portion of a protected wetland to die.
The previous Enerdu owner was on the actual committee that set the water heights for hydro projects in the MRWMP (Mississippi River Water Management Plan). It was completely in his best interests to ensure that his new weir height was the standard, otherwise he would not have been able to achieve his electrical output. I think that he has passed the problem on to the new owner, who would like to do the power plant expansion.
I know for certain that the new Enerdu project was not even on the table when the wetland die-off was first being investigated by the field naturalists. So it is completely senseless to dismiss the field naturalists as a bunch of “Stop Enerdu at all costs” folks. It seems to me that they were doing their homework and noticing changes to our wetland long before we were.
I would appreciate anyone who could point out any other reason for the wetland to be suddenly dying. Because it really appears that someone caused massive die-off in an ANSI-protected wetland as a result of increasing the height of weir boards. Perhaps it is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, as the saying goes.
It may be that a solution to our Enerdu controversy here in Almonte might be to have a lower weir height in the summer months, to preserve our wetland. But the Water Management Plan would have to be changed, under authority from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
It would be a supreme embarrassment to the Liberal Government, and to the Ministries of the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources if this wetland dies completely as a result of high water levels – levels which are obviously set downriver at the weir.
I humbly request that you give this logic your full consideration. I will be writing similar letters to the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change, Energy, and Natural Resources & Forestry.
In summer months, the water level all the way upriver to Appleton from Almonte is determined by the height of the flashboards on the weir. This is because, at the low summer flow rate, the river water is level.
At the current flashboard height, the roots of the trees in the Appleton Wetland are saturated by water, according to biologists. This is precisely the time of year when the roots require low water levels in order to acquire oxygen for survival. If the current weir height had been in place for decades, the wetland trees would have died decades ago.
Therefore, the weir height must have been changed.
It is believed from photographic evidence and other investigation by the MVFN that the weir height was changed on or around the year 2000. MVCA/MNR people did not start measuring water levels until 2006, so they would not have noticed a change. If they had been recording levels for decades, they would have had this data to show the MVFN when the naturalists started to notice the wetland die-off. This would have pointed to the water level right away as the cause for the die-off.
No other explanation has been proven for the die-off, which is all recent: This wetland is very, very old, and has survived occasional high water level years in the past. It is the continual high water level, year after year, which is catastrophic to it.
If older trees are dying, then the weir height itself must have been changed to something greater than the height used by the flour mill.