Council Formally Withdraws Support For Enerdu

At the Committee of the Whole meeting, August 12, Council members voted 7 to 3 to support a motion I drafted in consultations with like-minded Councillors. It calls on Council to formally withdraw any implied support for the Enerdu generating station expansion. Further, the motion asks staff to inform the Enerdu proponent, the Premier of Ontario and four provincial ministers of the decision.

The success of the motion removes any ambiguity over where Council sits. In support were Councillors Abbott, Cameron, Dalgity, Gillis, Watters and Wilkinson. Opposed were Mayor Levi and Councillors Minnelli and Ferguson. Councillor Edwards was absent.

Summer of 2014

The summer of 2014 brought on a renewal of protests over the proposed expansion of the Enerdu generating station in central Almonte. It also heralded a new level of citizen engagement, where bright, committed people strive to get the best results from their local government.

The public Enerdu conversation—especially on the pages of the Millstone News—is at times uncomfortable. None of us on Council have been spared barbs. But, that’s part of the job.

Building on the work done by Mike O’Malley, Bryn Mathews and other Riverwatchers in 2012 and 2013, a new coalition of residents—including Linda Manzer, Brent Eades, Rona Fraser and Rick Scholes—joined the fray and turned up the heat on Council. Backed by many Mill Street merchants—like Emily Arbour, Bob Graff and Sean Isaacs—they have vociferously rebuffed our excuse that the Province gave Council no authority. “Get off your collective ass, side with residents and do not cringe before regulatory obstacles,” is the message.

We got the messageat least most of us.

Saving the Wetlands

A motion drafted by Councillor Duncan Abbott also succeeded. His motion calls for re-examining the water level in the Mississippi River in the face of unexpected heavy summer rains that are flooding the fair grounds. Abbot based his concerns on data from the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority.

The timing of this motion is excellent. One day earlier, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) released a 76-page report calling for an immediate amendment to the Mississippi River Water Management Plan to save the wetland upstream from the fairgrounds. After a year of exhaustive study, the MVFN scientists and researchers—including Dr. Paul Keddy, MVFN President Cliff Bennett, Al Seaman, Joachim Moenig, Mike O’Malley and Howard Robinson—confirmed that that excessive water levels resulting from Enerdu’s operations in the last 10 years are causing the die-off of the silver maples in the Appleton Wetland.

In December 2013, Councillors Edward, Abbott and I, along with our CAO Diane Smithson, met with David Orazietti, then the Resources Minister, and his staff in Queen’s Park. We presented preliminary scientific research from the MVFN. We requested that his ministry amend the water management plan for the Mississippi River upstream from Almonte. The minister turned down the request but said he’d reconsider when the MVFN completed its final report

So, now we have the final report and a new Resources minister. It may be time to visit Queen’s Park again.

Other Ideas

Mississippi Mills residents have researched all aspects of the Enerdu project and regularly suggest areas of inquiry. Many of these deserve examination. I will work on getting other ideas before Council. These include:

  • Compiling a cost-benefit analysis of the Enerdu expansion. What lasting economic value, if any, will the project bring to our town?
  • Examining the potential of applying for a quitclaim to the riverbed from the upper end of the fair grounds to Metcalfe Park. The reason would be to preserve it as a water park and to control the land under the CP rail bridge (part of a future active transportation corridor). The municipal claim would have a higher precedent than any private interest. 
  • Saying “No” to access via the Almonte Old Town Hall or any town-owned land. Some Enerdu expansion plans suggest the hoe-ramming equipment needs to access the riverbed from the AOTH property. This is one area where the Town does have authority. 

The Province of Ontario seems to be ignoring calls from Mississippi Mills residents and individual Councillors to stop Enerdu or, at least, to give the Town some say in its design and construction. We need to find allies. Since no town wants to face an industrial complex thrust into the middle of a heritage area, our predicament should garner sympathy.

We need to ask for support. That is the job for the Mayor. Lanark Council is the first stop. The Mayor and one other Town Councillor sit on that body. Then there is the Eastern Ontario Wardens Council, a group of thirteen upper-tier or large municipalities, which includes Lanark County. Another ally could be the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). As a major lobbying organization, the AMO gets attention at Queens Park. We need to explore all these avenues to add to the growing chorus of discontented organizations and people opposed to this power generation project. And if the current Mayor won’t take these steps, I know a future one who will.

Update. On July 29, Council supported my motion asking staff to draft a by-law that will delay any major construction in Almonte’s downtown core while the heritage district study is underway. The draft by-law to do that comes before Council on September 2nd.


Al Seaman said...

That's a great report Shaun. It is really encouraging to see Council evolving into a more active role on the Enerdu issue. Having finally got the wetland report in place I hope you can use it to good advantage on the political front. It is going to take some concentrated work on many fronts to get the gang at Queens Park to come to their senses and do the right thing with Enerdu. Good luck, and keep up the fight.
Cheers - Al Seaman