A new organization, spurred into existence by the proposed Enerdu project to build a dam across the upper Mississippi river falls at Almonte appeared before the Mississippi Mills Planning and Development Committee on Tuesday May 15. Concerned citizens packed the gallery and Mississippi Mills resident Bryn Matthews, on behalf of the Mississippi Mills Riverkeepers, introduced a power point presentation which outlined their concerns. The Riverkeepers made it clear that they are not against development, are in favour of innovation, but do not want development at any cost, particularly without benefit to the community. In the view of the Riverkeepers, there are significant downsides to the Enerdu project and no upsides for anyone other than Enerdu. Enerdu, owned by Jeff Cavanagh, son of the founder of Cavanagh Construction, is proposing to change the run of river facility at the top of the falls at Almonte, to a managed flow facility which can take advantage of the peak power advantages offered by the Green Energy Act. The Ontario Green Energy Act + FIT program provides a 50% incentive for hydro plants to switch to peak power production. Enerdu intends to hoeram out 1500 square feet of the river bottom at the top of the falls, build a dam across the falls and construct housing for a turbine on the west side of the river that critics estimate, will jut out into the river, spoiling the view.
In allowing hydro facilities to conduct their own environmental assessments, the Riverkeepers intimate that the fox is in charge of the hen house and the local community, which will be deeply affected by project, is being left out of the equation. The Mississippi river and falls is a defining feature of Almonte and a major contributor to its success as a desirable community in which to live and to visit. It should not be appropriated to the benefit of one individual, Jeff Cavanagh, to the detriment of its citizens.
Matthews' presentation, made to CouncillorsDuncan Abbott (chair), Denzil Ferguson, Shaun McLaughlin, Val Wilkinson, Garry Dalgity, John Levi, and Alex Gilles, was articulate and well organized, however councillors asked only one question. According to Councillor McLaughin, the presentation was complete and left no questions unanswered.