Bala Falls portage court loss could go to Supreme Court
BALA — An Ontario Court of Appeals challenge by Muskoka Lakes Township regarding the right of canoesists to portage around the BalaFalls was denied Monday.
The provincial court turned down the appeal, which was launched over Swift River Energy’s safety objections regarding its plans for a hydro project at the MoonRiver and Hwy. 169.
But opponents of the project say the decision could still be appealed to the Supreme Court, if Canada’s top court agrees to accept the belief that use of navigable waters is Constitutionally protected.
Those behind the provincial appeals challenge would have to proceed to that next level and the SCOC would first have to agree to even hear the case.
Mitchell Shiner, an outspoken advocate on behalf of the Save the Falls group, sent out this newsletter after the court decision.
It would certainly have helped meet our goals if the Ontario Court of Appeal had agreed with the Township of Muskoka Lakes in their recent day in court where they presented their concerns about the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Public Lands Act. So as always, we will continue to ask:
Would the proposed station be safe, for the in-water recreation that has been part of Bala for over 100 years, such as swimming and boating upstream and downstream.
Would the proposed station be beautiful, as this area is. The few drawings and renderings provided by the proponent have all had such major omissions and errors that they mislead rather than inform. And the proponent won’t commit there would be no barbed-wire fencing or that there would not be warning sirens sounded daily (they only make vague statements about not currently having any such plans).
Would there be enough water over the Bala north and south falls that people would continue to be drawn to Bala (nobody will come to see the dry rocks where the falls used to be).
As for the last nine years, the proponent still requires approvals from all four levels of government.
Federal government: Transport Canada must provide approval under the Navigation Protection Act before any in-water work can commence. We have many concerns, as stated in this letter, and have asked our federal MP, Minister Tony Clement, to ask that Transport Canada include public consultation in their assessment of this proposed project. While Minister Clement’s initial response seemed to be that this is a provincial issue, as shown here, there will be an impact on marine navigation and we need to have an opportunity to ensure that Transport Canada hears how and by whom these docks are used. Our representation for such federal matters is through our Minister Clement, you can e-mail him at Tony.Clement@parl.gc.ca to let him know your concerns, which may include:
This is his issue too, and his constituents are asking him to ensure that Transport Canada hears and understands from the public how these docks are used. For example, often less experienced boaters such as children and visitors use these docks. And people arriving at these docks often go to nearby stores, so the area’s economy would be affected as well.
People are used to the faster water typically entering the MoonRiver from the south channel, not from the proposed new location which is directed towards the most popular in-water recreation areas on the MoonRiver. And because the proposed generating station would be remotely- and automatically-controlled (cycling on for ⅓ of summer days, and running at full capacity an average of 21 days each summer), people could never know if there is turbulent water from the proposed tailrace and what speed it would be.
Provincial government: The Ministry of Natural Resources is currently considering the proponent’s application for Plans and Specifications approval. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for public input into this process, but we continue to provide input to the MNR, for example, that the proponent’s construction would create too high a risk of flooding Lake Muskoka.
District Municipality of Muskoka: While the District has recently allowed the proponent “driveway access” for two of the three sites they need, this access isn’t allowed until October 20, and the District hasn’t considered that traffic would be stopped for up to 1½ hours daily during blasting, and that the removal of the guardrail opposite the end of Bala Falls Road would pose dangers to both vehicles and pedestrians.
Township of Muskoka Lakes: The proponent requires a building permit and driveway access.
So this is certainly not a “done deal,” says Shiner.
To Save the Bala Falls we need to keep communicatingAsk your family and neighbours to sign themselves up for our e-Newsletters at the top-right at SaveTheBalaFalls.com, and follow us on twitter at @SaveBalaFalls and Friend us on Facebook at Save the Bala Falls.
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