Here is an update authored by Ted Farley of developments surround the plan of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and its contractor Swift River Energy Limited to imprison the beautiful waterfalls in the centre of Bala, Ontario in a concrete box in order to jack up your power rates.
The Facts about the Bala Falls Hydro Project:
Over the recent few months, the revelation of significant changes to the proposed Hydro Plant in Bala have come to light. Swift River Energy Limited, the private Toronto Company driving this project is finally releasing a few details of their newly proposed design and are now attempting to rush it through Township and District approvals before the public becomes fully aware of their broken promises, in an to attempt to begin construction this spring. What is the rush?
Until now, Swift River Energy claimed “Our intention is to harmonize the architecture of the new facility with the natural environment of the site by installing a low-profile power house built mostly underground (bunker-type). Its roof will be below road level.”
Here are the facts of their current proposal:
– It now calls for a large building rising more than 2 storeys above Highway169, directly beside the scenic North Falls, a few feet from the Highway, stretching down to the river.
– This building represents a 48% increase in size and capacity over previous versions and will occupy nearly half of the land between the two falls, replacing beautiful mature trees.
– A proposed widening of Highway169 and use of township land, during construction will eliminate many of the remaining trees on this land leaving a large building to frame the once beautiful Bala Falls; ruining the primary tourist attraction in West Muskoka.
– Construction now calls for blasting a 30’X30’ tunnel directly adjacent to the Hwy.169 Bridge causing significant delays while putting at risk the only route through West Muskoka.
– It will make hundreds of feet of the limited public shoreline in Bala, too dangerous to access and will likely result in high fencing around the entire area for safety regulations.
– They changed the water management to Cycling from Run of River allowing a private, for profit contractor to determine and, significantly reduce scenic flow over both Bala falls throughout the year as well as manage water levels for Lake Muskoka.
– It will now permanently eliminate the Historic Bala Portage and with it, the Heritage of the First Nations who settled the region, while resulting in more dangerous portage routes.
Why is this hugely unpopular project being allowed to proceed? This will result in a devastating blow to Bala and its tourism-based economy, not to mention the significant loss to all of Muskoka, of one of its most accessible, beautiful and natural landmarks. We have to stand up and protect this unique gem from a bullying Provincial Government, and an aggressive proponent, and let them know they do not have the right to force this on our region.
The Province’s Auditor General has stated that these small power projects based on the FIT Program, are no longer needed due to over-capacity, and that they are a direct contributor to the rapidly rising Hydro Rates in the Province. The power from this project will mostly become part of the growing large sell-off of excess energy to the US, at great losses to the Province, while we the ratepayers pay significantly over cost, guaranteed rates, to a few private investors at Swift River for the next 40 years, to insure they make a very healthy profit. Why else would they still be fighting to proceed 10 years after their 1st proposal? No business does that unless there is a huge upside for them. This is not a Green project and it exemplifies a failing energy policy that is out of control and killing business growth in Ontario.
We are asking for your support to help us save our heritage and nature’s gifts for generations to come. Go to www.savethebalafalls.com to join the growing numbers and add your support.
Ted Farley, Bala, Ontario