Protect Bala Falls

Thursday and Friday this week, (and my dog) will be joining Peggy Petersen (and her dog) at Bala Falls protesting another of the Ontario Liberal’s green-at-any-cost follies — Swift River Energy’s subsidy-dependent plan to despoil the falls at the outlet of Lake Muskoka into the Moon River. I’ll be live Tweeting the protest from the falls and also live Tweeting from the Friday morning meeting of Township of Muskoka Lakes council (Twitter: @tomadamsenergy).

Here is our protest HQ and overnight accommodation. Please come visit. Appropriate clothing is recommended.

:quinz 031 is a wonderful source for information on community resistance to the ruin of Bala Falls. Here my previous review of the project, where a lively exchange between supporters and opponents of the project ensued. Here is my previous props to the Ontario Rivers Alliance, an organization committed to preserving natural river ecosystems. Here is the developer’s site for its Bala project.

There is not a single hydro-electric project of any size under development anywhere in Canada today that is beneficial to consumers. Those with contradictory views are welcome to present their evidence.

In October last year, I published with Professor McKitrick at the University of Guelph a paper on power pricing in Ontario. One of the surprising (to me) results of that work was the finding that over the last decade incremental hydro-electric generation has been performing much worse for Ontario consumers than even wind power. (Correction: Folks familiar with the editorial practice on this site may have noticed that when I make corrections I leave the original errors for posterity. This is an instance. When I composed this post originally, I mentally transposed the cost coefficients of wind and hydro-electric generation from the McKitrick/Adams study and reported water power as a worse deal for consumers than wind. Wrong. The study findings were that each additional 1 MW of new wind capacity added about $0.02/MWh to the Global Adjustment, after taking into account the offsetting effect of revenues from wind production whereas the impact of  1 MW of incremental hydro-electric over the last decade added about $0.015/MWh to the GA. Brain cramp.) 

The obsolescence of new hydro-electric generation is not limited to Ontario. Upon completion of the financially ruinous Wuskwatim project in Manitoba, which cost two times the initial estimate, the government decided to commit to even more new remote hydros + transmission, with a get-them-hooked price tag $20 billion. Assuming no cost overruns, BC Hydro’s Site C looks about on par with Wuskwatim’s miserable track record. The government of Newfoundland & Labrador is going ahead with Muskrat Madness, a project likely to turn out so badly that it will make Joey Smallwood’s 1969 Upper Churchill deal with Hydro Quebec look smart by comparison.

There are a number of factors driving the obsolescence of new hydro-electric generation. The good sites are all developed. Power from natural gas is cheap, available on short lead times, and can be located close to loads which improves reliability and reduces transmission costs. Demand is flat. Boomeranging back from many historical electricity developments that seriously harmed many aboriginal people, rising demands for payments to aboriginal groups is another factor.  

Although I am sceptical about the extra burdens on new hydro projects as incentives for aboriginal participation, I see an urgent need for truth and reconciliation concerning historical injustices. One element of that is better documenting Canada’s sad history of harm to aboriginal people as a result of careless hydro-electric and transmission developments. Cross Lake in Manitoba is an example where documentation is easily available and where reconciliation seems to be progressing. Here is more on Cross Lake.




  1. Another Green Energy, Green Econonmy Act heavily subsidized folly. Run of the river projects like this pay out producers 33 cents per kwh I believe.There was opposition in the Sudbury area also to a similar planned exploitation of natural rapids.I recall a retired MNR stateing there won’t be any natural waterfalls left in Ontario under this plan. How many of these small unreliable projects have been completed and what is the contribution to the grid if any? What is the cost of transmission for remotes? This is no different for unreliable wind or solar.

    A shell game.

    The industry foots the cost as the OEB states when they give transmission line approval but we pay an extraordinary high cost for that. Economically, in the end, the electricity users and all services down line pay affecting the entire province. Environmentally we and our children pay. These projects and the GEEA are not in the interest of the people of Ontario or the greater good.

    • Thank you Tom for coming to Bala Twice to help , we need you again . The Auditors File makes a heavy argument for protecting this falls. I hope people realize what we may lose if we do stop the destruction right now. You say it costs us 35 Million a year to export , all added to our power bills. I have watched so much more hardware and lines running through Muskoka to get it there, I think it is a crime to be investigated. I know that WE PAY New York State 5Cents a KM Hour to take our surplus power including power coming from Nuclear.
      We need a cavalry to get to Queens Park to get a meeting with the province.
      Many thanks for all you do j
      keep moving….
      PJ Peterson

  2. Finally, Ms. Petersen’s action is being called a protest – it will be interesting to see if she gives you the tongue lashing she’s given others for daring to call her a protestor. Maybe now that you are joining her ‘protest’ she’ll even embrace some facts. It might make her a bit more credible and stop hurting the cause.

    • Your comment correctly points out that I referred to Peggy’s action as a protest. Having had a chance to understand better what she is doing, I realize that my understanding was too simplistic. She is for something, not just against, not defined by opposition. She is a protector, a defender of land, water, heritage, and democracy. She is a lot more than just a protester. As for her credibility and her impact on the cause, I suggest that lots of folks have contributed mightily to the fact that SuREaL (Swift River Energy Limited) has not yet started blasting a hole in Lake Muskoka, but since September of 2014, Peggy has been the centre of that fight. In my own case, it was Peggy’s action that drew my attention to the background of the proposed development and to investigate more closely the benefits and costs of the proposed project.

      Where Peggy is a guide to the beauty of the falls, I am a protester pure and simple. I am outraged by the perverted green agenda that motivates our Ontario government not to preserve and protect Bala Falls, but to energetically pursue their confinement to a concrete box. I am outraged by the consumer ripoff the proposal would impose.

      • Thank you so much Tom, It has been a pleasure hanging out in the trees with you.
        See you at Queens park someday soon, time to bring Bala Toronto

    • Are you serious, you certainly like to spin a story. The truth is I am a water protector and a land defender. I am FOR saving a beautiful public falls , not against anything or anyone. It is amazing the expectations of me that filled the coffee shops here . It was maybe not enough to do what I have done for a town that I did not know where I knew no one to pitch a tent in a downtown park and stop the construction of a private for profit power project under my own steam and with support that I earned from some wonderful people. I never gave anyone but the enemies of Bala Falls a hard time so you are mistaken. It is respectful and important to me that people understand fully my role and responsibility in Bala . I am the Idle No More activist who stopped a done deal by pitching a tent in the public park In Bala Muskoka on September 1 2014 .
      I am a protector not a protestor , there is an important difference is Social Justice Circles.
      It helps keep things clear for everyone but many tried to goad me into a reaction and that was unfortunate for everyone really. I have talked to thousands of people about this project and power disaster in Ontario Some people just cannot get past being helped by a women from out of town ….. E. . Szabo you sound like a member of the local group who spent more time fighting me than helping to get the project cancelled it has been sixteen months now….
      The very reason we wanted to save the Bala Falls seems to have gone missing lately.

  3. Hi there Tom,
    It was a great pleasure to meet you here in Bala at the Falls, you are an inspiration and you have certainly inspired me to continue to stand my ground and protect Turtle Island in Bala,
    You have embraced this issue and this cold weather to stand here in solidarity in spite of the minus 33 with the wind chill. WOW
    Can you imagine Turtle Island in Bala creating a new legacy for this community ?
    Will Muskoka be famous for doing the right thing and stopping the destruction?
    I can see it being an important place to celebrate nature , teach youth about being responsible citizens and restore public access to the traditional Wahta Mohawks Portage.
    I can see this community and creating a legacy for both tourists and locals to visit and witness the beauty here and acknowledge the near tragedy that would have happened without everyone’s effort to stop it.
    am very very grateful to you for helping us to tell this story and bring some common sense to the conversation.
    Take care, stay warm !!!

  4. I’m not sure about the observation, “factors driving the obsolescence of new hydro-electric generation”. Theses may apply to the all the developed “good sites”, but the statement overlooks all the pristine sites of which there are many on the northern parts of the Province way above Bala. Even if demand is flat and natural gas is cheap (but not forever, price bobs up and down), I would much RATHER our tax dollars were spent on hydro development than wasted on what is clearly a scam and an illusion: how green is my turbine (there must be a movie?) Such development is very expensive (it also requires development of transmission means) but pays better dividends IMHO, in the long run.

Comments are closed.