8/22/12

Taking the High View

On August 22, I had the great pleasure to fly over Mississippi Mills in the Husky float plane owned and piloted by Mike O’Malley. From Appleton we followed the river downstream past Almonte and Blakeney to Pakenham. We banked left and flew over the Pakenham highlands, my farm, Clayton and Taylor Lakes, and Wolf Grove before touching down in Appleton Bay.

From 1500 feet up, our sprawling community is diverse and picturesque with its fields, forests and waterfalls. The only blight is the withered forest between the Appleton dam and Almonte. The red maples near the river are dead or dying.

The same forest type on similar marshy terrain above Appleton is healthy. Riverside trees downstream of Almonte look fine. Something about the river environment downstream of Appleton is killing the forest. It can’t be insects or other pestilence because such would logically affect upstream areas too.

The cause is surely the high river level maintained by the Enerdu dam. In 2004, the boards atop the dam were increased in height. (I remember sitting at the Ironworks pub with two friends discussing the new boards.) Two years later, the Almonte wetland forest began showing signs of distress. A recent report by Mississippi Valley Conservation stated that the river level was a factor. I think it is the only factor. It looks just like a forest drowning from a new beaver dam.

A vocal and effective citizen’s group is working hard to fix the problem by gathering information and leaning on provincial authorities. As a municipal representative, I am uncomfortable that Council has not debated this issue, nor passed a resolution expressing its displeasure to the Province. It may be outside of our jurisdiction, but it is our town. The opinion of Council carries some weight.

On several important local issues, Council has remained mute because the solution is beyond its powers. We need to take a higher view. This is our turf. We represent the people, and should always get behind them when they need help dealing with other levels of government.

4 comments:

gny said...

Well said. So what do you think the chances of the "Old Boys Club" side of council doing anything at all?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if they all see the damage it will help them to understand the problem and see how widespread the damage has become to this designated wetland.

Anonymous said...

It is still an old boys network, devoid of independant thinkers. I am sure that the "old Boys" network believe that there will be a benefit for them in not opposing this. They should remember who elected them, was it Enerdu or the community? Harold

Michael Caughey said...

Bravo, Shaun! I agree that you and your fellow councillors will justifiably be seen as indolent and irresponsible if you don't address this whole issue on behalf of the citizenry.

In addition to the upstream environmental impact, there is the issue of the impact on the appearance of the falls/rapids just upstream of the Almonte railway(!) bridge.

The issue here is the amount of water that would continue to flow over the rapids. For Enerdu's new power plant to generate four times the power of the old plant (its design objective), the new plant must consume four times more river flow than the old plant (given the inexorable laws of physics). The power plant and the rapids inescapably must compete for the river flow - i.e. there is no free lunch.

Consider how much of the time already that the flow over these erstwhile rapids is a mere trickle. Then consider how many more days the rapids will remain dry with this new water demand by the adjacent Enerdu power plant.

Surely it is apparent that the beauty of these rapids, in full flow, is of incredible value to our community. Their impact on our economy, culture and quality of life is incalculable. Just think of River Walk. How many other small towns like ours would die to have such an asset?

The Council must not let this marvellous natural resource be squandered by an apparently uncaring, insensitive, secretive enterprise without very carefully considering the consequences for all concerned.