Fear of flooding remains
PETAWAWA -A firm planning the construction of two generating stations on the Petawawa River tried Sunday to assuage the fears of residents that the project would adversely damage the river.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Black Bay Ratepayers Association, Mark Holmes, vice-president of Xeneca Power Development said there will be no impact on water levels in the area.
With hydrological and topographical studies showing the Petawawa River has generation potential, the company has identified two sites where it plans to build generating stations.
The largest would be situated at Big Eddy situated just west of the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge with the potential to generate up to 10 megawatts.
The second station is slated for Half Mile Rapids in the vicinity of Mountbatten Bridge in the Petawawa military training area. While it has the possibility of creating 3.3 megawatts, the company still needs to assess whether it is viable.
Black Bay permanent residents and cottage owners are chiefly concerned over the potential for flooding if water flows are backed up from the Big Eddy site. Mr. Holmes said that will not be the case.
"Big Eddy will not affect water levels here at all," Mr. Holmes told some 70 ratepayers who gathered for the meeting at the Carmody residence on the bay's south shore. "Black Bay is far enough upstream that it won't be impacted."
The project would mean a major investment in revenues and job creation worth between $12 million and $26 million, Mr. Holmes added. The town would receive tax and lease revenues of between $50,000 and $100,000 per year for the 100-year lifespan of the stations. Operators and service providers would also be hired from the area, he said.
The generators could assist whitewater activities by extending the season through proper water control.
They may actually provide greater stability by minimizing impacts of heavy precipitation, snowmelt or mitigating drought conditions. In addition, Mr. Holmes contended, its proximity to the population means Petawawa residents would have its power restored quicker during an outage.
While some residents compared the plan with the James Bay hydro electric dams, Mr. Holmes insisted the stations will have very limited impact on the vibrant and fast-flowing river that has been a mecca for boaters and kayakers.
"We're not building big head
ponds," he said. "These are steady active flowing."
So far, Xeneca has completed digital aerial surveys at both sites with data being confirmed by engineers. Currently the firm is preparing a water power site strategy which outlines technical and financial planning for the project.
Consultations are ongoing with the Ministry of Natural Resources and environmental assessments still need to be conducted. Public meetings are scheduled for next year.
Xeneca is looking at a number of options for the Big Eddy station ranging from an underwater intake and underground pipeline leading to a power house in town to a more conventional concrete structure that would hold back and release water.
That option troubles Mayor Bob Sweet, who attended the meeting with other members of Petawawa council including Deputy Mayor Ed Chow and Councillor Theresa Sabourin.
"The word that is of concern to council is the word 'concrete'," Mayor Sweet told the ratepayers after Mr. Holmes made his presentation. "That's pretty permanent as far as any structure and I would have some concerns."
Mr. Holmes responded saying another design might look like a weir, an overflow-type dam commonly used to raise the level of a river. They can be used to ensure a river remains navigable.
However, many ratepayers remained unconvinced the stations wouldn't cause them some manner of distress.
Former councillor Brian Mohns, who now owns a home and cottage at Black Bay, dismissed the company's assertion that water levels during the spring run-off would remain high for an extra three weeks.
"I honestly don't believe it," said Mr. Mohns. "You're trying to sell this but I don't believe it."
Mr. Holmes said the flows from Big Eddy would impact the levels only as far west as the H & H gravel pit which is situated near the Highway 17 bridge.
Others feared for the safety of boaters, while one resident contended her research showed the flows on the Petawawa River were not fast enough to maintain power output for five months of the year. Mr. Holmes added MNR would not allow the company to store up water to maximize power.
Mayor Sweet said it would be prudent for council to research other communities that have installed similar stations to assess the impact.
He added he's held conversations with both former base commander Col. Bill Moore and current commander Lt.-Col. Keith Rudderham. Both men told him they are concerned about the impact to training a station at Half Mile Rapids would have.
"This is extremely premature," he said.
The presentation was held after Xeneca president Patrick Gillette visited the association last year. While he harbours his own concerns about the project, James Carmody, the president of Black Bay Ratepayers Association, said his role was acting as moderator.
"It's the type of topic people can get emotional about," said Mr. Carmody adding the association, which represents users and residents along the entire Petawawa River, will continue to follow the proposed initiative.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer reporter