Muskoka To-DAILY

Save the Falls going to district public works meeting Aug. 23 with concerns about permits

BALA — Mitchell Shiner, a public relations person for the Save the Bala Falls group, offers his latest current status – in detail – on the controversial hydro project in Bala.
He says Monday: “We haven’t been able to provide detailed updates lately because we’ve been waiting for many responses, but we now have much information to share.”

The quick summary is that while the proponent still does not have all the official approvals they need, the public needs to remind the government of their responsibility to protect the public and public infrastructure, and to comply with the Environmental Assessment Act, as follows:

District Municipality of Muskoka:

Mitchell says the proposed construction could damage both the district’s highway bridge and Muskoka Road 169 adjacent to it.

As damage to this crucial infrastructure would require everyone take a 50 km detour, the district agreed to meet with us so we could describe the issues in detail.

While the district initially told us they would conduct a transparent process in deciding whether to issue the approvals, they are now apparently planning on issuing the approvals without providing answers or even showing on what basis they would make this important decision.

One of our concerns is that the district may not know that if there is a heavy rainstorm during the proposed construction, the MNRF will require the proponent to remove their upstream cofferdam on 24 hours notice, with the result that the full flow of the Bala north falls would be directed through the proposed construction site and this could destroy the highway bridge and collapse Muskoka Road 169.

This is why we have requested to see the reports the District has apparently received on this issue, but so far they are ignoring our requests.

The next meeting of the District’s Engineering and Public Works Committee is on Wednesday August 23, 2017, starting at 9 am in the council chambers at 70 Pine Street, Bracebridge, the Agenda is here.

We will be delegating at this meeting, but have not yet been informed when our delegation will be, and when the commissioner of engineering and public works will present his report. We will send out an update when we know more.
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The proponent is making many environmentally-significant changes to their plans; without environmental assessment, and without even informing the public.
For example, the proponent is required to utilize several large settling tanks to test and treat the contaminated water they would pump from their proposed excavation. But these could be tipped over by the force of the water if the upstream cofferdam had to be removed, dumping this untreated water and sediment directly into the Moon River.
We continue to request the MOECC to require that the proponent’s new plans be subject to environmental assessment, but so far they only repeat the indefensible claim: “The ministry remains of the view that the modifications to the project to date are consistent with those that would normally be expected to occur during the detailed design stage of the project, and therefore do not affect previous MOECC EA approvals.”
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The proponent has apparently submitted a safety plan to the MNRF, but refuses to disclose this to the public. As the government Ministries do not have the in-house expertise to assess such a plan, there is precedent that they must obtain expert input on this issue which is literally about life and death.
We have requested to meet with the MNRF on this issue, but they have refused.
Our local MPP Norm Miller has recently been appointed Official Opposition Critic for the MNRF, so he is doubly the right person to strongly present this serious concern to the MNRF. We have met with MPP Miller and asked him to request that the MNRF meet with us, but so far MPP Miller has not responded to this.
A detailed article on this issue is posted here.

Welcome to the Honourable Chris Ballard, the new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
The Honourable Chris Ballard, MPP for Newmarket–Aurora has recently been appointed as the new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

We have posted an open letter to introduce Minister Ballard to the issue of the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls, showing there are many serious environmental issues of concern to the MOECC.

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