The following is an initial response to the letter from Mark Priddle addressed to Bryn Matthews, Chair of the Mississippi RiverWatchers, and  published in the Millstone on April 22, 2013.

Dear Mr. Priddle,

Our apologies for the delay in response to your letter published in the Millstone. Your observations serve to tell us that we have done a poor job of explaining the details of the Enerdu Expansion and Development plans, especially to those in our community who appear to have no comprehension of the most obvious concern, the natural visual landscape that is the hallmark of downtown Almonte.

Your instruction on the history of the river and how it has continued to change over the decades is well understood.  However,  we suggest to you that the industrial development that characterized the industrial Mississippi of the 19th and early 20th centuries would not be tolerated today. Thankfully there are people who are conscious of the damage that was done in the past, and their increased concern has, until only recently, given rise to more stringent and inclusive regulations to govern development of along the rivers and lakes of Ontario.

But of even greater import to your singular vision of the ever-changing river in this once thriving mill town is the point that early industrial development in Almonte, and elsewhere in North Eastern North America, created hundreds of real jobs for our European fore bearers, those early settlers in an often harsh environment, in which it was difficult, often impossible, to eke out a living. For many of those early settlers, a job in the Mill was all that kept them in this area.

Obviously the Mississippi River is no longer an industrial corridor. With the demise of water power based industries, the Mississippi River is only now beginning to reclaim and capitalize on its natural beauty.  Many in this town are excited to see Almonte become an attractive destination for thousands of visitors, seeking the unique natural setting of a charming downtown, replete with fine shops and restaurants in a natural riverside setting.  To illustrate to you how recognition of the pride we take in our community is manifest, I suggest you find a copy of the recent Porter Airlines in-flight magazine, which has a feature article about the renaissance of this once modest little mill town.

There are some among us who have travelled beyond the borders of Lanark County, even as far  away as New England, where we have observed thriving commerce in the beautiful river settings of the many old mill towns of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. We have the setting, we have the physical presence of our industrial past, and we have the creative entrepreneurs who have made impressive progress transforming Almonte into a riverside destination, which unless I have been hallucinating, appears to be contributing measurably to a new prosperity for this community. Why on earth would we do anything to alter that picture by adding an industrial pig’s breakfast in the form of an out-of-scale industrial power generating facility that will contribute not one identifiable benefit to this community.

In the present circumstances where the Enerdu Environmental Report on their self assessment fails to properly address many serious issues, the RiverWatchers want one very clear thing; a Part II Order from the Ministry of the Environment that would require a full and impartial Environmental Review of the proposed project. Without this full review, there will be many serious problems, and the residents of Almonte will be left with all of the future negative impacts.

We held the public meeting to pass on information about the project, its problems, and the need for a Part II Order. Feedback from the public meeting has been mostly very positive. Your feedback tells us that we need to provide clearer explanations for your major concerns. These will be addressed in detail in subsequent articles.

Regards,

The Mississippi RiverWatchers