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  1. #1

    North Huron Council Pauses Environmental Assessment

    http://www.southwesternontario.ca/ne...al-assessment/

    Nov. 16, 2016

    A permit for the required work and the discovery of black redhorse sucker fish in the Maitland River – a species at risk identified by federal and provincial legislature – was the tipping point which has pressured North Huron council to put the environmental assessment of the Howson Dam on hold and get approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) before proceeding.

    “When you decided to go down the EA road it was because you wanted to consider options for this structure and so these are the options that have come to the top as a result of public comments and inial review,” North Huron CAO Sharon Chambers said at the Nov. 7 council meeting.

    “If you are going to consider rehabilitation as a viable option you need to do this analysis.”

    Following the project’ s public meeting last month, project manager Jeff Graham said many of the 127 comments received expressed an interest in seeing the dam restored with water levels returned to historic levels.

    Originally Graham presented five alternatives for the dam, however, after public discussion he believes there is only three alternatives moving forward: Rehabilitate the existing dam with the bridge, without the bridge, and remove the dam if rehabilitation isn’t practical, cost-effective or possible.

    “It is our position that the bridge is part and parcel with the dam, it is built directly on top and it is really part of the dam structure,” Graham said.

    “There is a good chance the stability of the dam is dependent on the weight of the bridge itself. So it is possible that the alternative of rehabilitating the dam might be affected by whether the bridge is there or not.”

    In a report to council, director of public works Jeff Molenhuis said there are approval requirements through the MNRF through the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA) for the work required for rehabilitation of the dam.

    Before submitting an application to LIRA, the hazard potential, in-flow design flood and safety analysis of the dam need to be completed and old figures show it could cost between $60,000 and $80,000.

    Graham said he is unsure how the discovery of the threatened species will affect the LIRA process and “It is my understanding that there is legal protection (for the species) by way of this classification.”

    Chambers said it would be a responsible approach to contact the MNRF because, “We want to make sure we don’t invest any of these funds before we find out about this (species at risk) because if we find that it is a deal breaker then we may need to stop this recommendation going forward.”

    With these stipulations, Graham recommended a suspension of the environmental assessment to allow the LIRA analysis to proceed.

    “As your consultant, it is really hard to really evaluate the cost and practicality of the rehabilitation of that dam until this work is done,” he said.

    The CAO explained that at this point the results are unknown.

    “We could spend that $60 to $80,000 and the MNR could come back and say ‘sorry,’ but if you really want to look at all your options and consider which of them are viable, it is a path you have to go down,” Chambers said.
    "Gone fishin' by a shady wady pool...." - Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby

  2. #2
    Governments falling over each other again. These issues need to be flagged at the beginning of projects like these not in the middle. Suspect a "pause" is polispeak for a "stop". The people of Wingham deserve better.

  3. #3
    GBO Member douggrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Shaw View Post
    Governments falling over each other again. These issues need to be flagged at the beginning of projects like these not in the middle. Suspect a "pause" is polispeak for a "stop". The people of Wingham deserve better.
    Bob, could you clarify for me, your comments could be taken the wrong way depending upon a person's own thoughts.
    I may not change the world; but I'm gonna leave a scar. - Blackberry Smoke

  4. #4
    I was not challenging the issue just thought there could have been more dialogue around it sooner. Maybe the issue just arose in which case my reaction was misplaced.

    You, Doug, certainly have way more insight on these kinds of issues than I.

  5. #5
    GBO Member douggrant's Avatar
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    I am not any where near an expert on this particular situation, I do have some familiarity with it. I will post what I know sometime over the weekend, can't tonight I need to go to bed, I found a field with a few geese in it for a morning hunt, only 1000 or so geese and ducks!

    I just didn't want to get into a pissin' match with anyone over this, the issue of dam removal or restoration is an emotional one. As I believe I have previously mentioned I have been told that I know nothing, I have been cursed, had the bird flipped at me, I even had a little old neighbor playfully punch me, at least I think it was a playful punch, she was over 80. I do know a couple of the Councilors, the CA people and even the project manager and have been given a few stories, I will share what I know.
    I may not change the world; but I'm gonna leave a scar. - Blackberry Smoke

  6. #6
    GBO Member douggrant's Avatar
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    OK, so its not the weekend as promised, too busy then; but having my forced air electric furnace replaced with a gas furnace today so I have some time.

    The Howson Dam is an old mill dam, it had a useful purpose at one time. Since it is no longer used for that purpose the stop logs are removed in the fall and replaced in the spring, I fully suspect that that is also how the dam is classified/regulated by the MNRF. The removal of the logs allow for migrating fish to access the upper reaches of the river to spawn, and in the case of trout to return to the lake afterwards. The removal of the boards also allows for the flushing of sediment that builds up in the pond site during the summer months.

    There is a group of people who would like to see the Howson Dam removed and the river restored to a natural state for the environmental benefits that it would offer. There is also a group of citizens that would like to see the dam repaired, and the water levels brought back up to 'historical' levels. This is a battle that goes on for each and every dam removal proposal there is, the battle between those who wish change and those who want to keep things the same, and then there is the third and silent majority... those that don't care one way or the other.

    It boils down to two arguments.

    Rip the dam out - All dams are bad for the environment. They stop up water, which allows for heating thereby changing temperature and the conditions for aquatic life. All dams restrict the natural movement of sediment and aquatic life. All dams increase the amount/concentration of pollutants in the water above them, ie runoff from fields. With the heating of the water and increased concentrations of pollutants plant life thrives in the conditions present, they in turn decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water,again changing conditions for aquatic life. Ponds attract ducks and geese, creatures that increase the amount of pollution in the water and on the land. (A Canada Goose poops ever 12-15 minutes creating up to 1 1/2 pounds of waste per day)

    Fix and keep them - Dams create a pond, the water that can look attractive at certain times of the year, in this case the 3-4 months during the summer when the boards are permitted to be in place. The pond gives a place to swim (I wouldn't see above pollution comments). People can boat and canoe. (the river is canoe-able with or without the dam) People can see ducks and geese (one of my hunting partners has signed the petition to keep the dam with the false idea that it means more birds... in Listowel we have more ducks then ever, geese have moved to storm water management ponds or the lagoons, we still have them just not in our park) There is also a historical nature to the dams and ponds. (my answer... put up a plaque)

    The arguments for both sides can go on and on.

    In Wingham the removal group had students from the U of G Environmental Sciences/Design of similar, come and do a site visit. They then went away and created some conceptual designs of how the site could be changes for improvement. These designs were presented to Council as an alternative to repairing the dam. The Pro-dam group started a petition, even took it to a Wingham Homecoming where many people who can remember what the site looked like in by-gone years were willing to sign it. Council had presentation given to them and decided to proceed with the Environmental Assessment, which is something that would have to be done IF they were to proceed with dam removal. In the mean time the Pro-dam group continued to put pressure on the Municipality, even so far as to have lawn signs made for people. And as indicated above a minnow that is a species at risk (actually classified and Special Concern https://www.ontario.ca/page/river-redhorse was found... the MNRF will have to decide on further progress for removal of the dam, ie can it be removed without impacting the Redhorse Sucker. The Pro-dam groups has been very vocal and was in attendance of the meeting, as indicated in the article.

    Council has chosen to suspend the EA (Dam Removal) and wait for the MNRF; and did choose to investigate keeping the Dam and Bridge by proceeding with the LIRA, which is costing $60-80,000. All said and done there is no decision made to keep or remove the dam yet; that will depend upon the results of the LIRA from the MNRF. Then there is the cost issue, how much money will Council have to invest to repair and maintain the dam going forward (in historical cases removal proves to be the cheaper alternative versus the one time cost of removal. Once faced with costs Council will then have to decide which way to proceed, do the benefits of one way out way the costs. Also if the costs of keeping it or removing it are high the other third group mentioned above who don't care, may suddenly have an opinion if it is going to increase their taxes.

    When we started to request the removal the Dam in Listowel I was told it would ten years from the time it was first mentioned to the time a decision was finally made... we did it in 7-8 years; but even then the dam stayed only the stop logs were removed. In Wingham there was a 'Lower' Dam that had been partially breached, it still took 10 years for a decision to make a decision as to whether to repair the dam or remove it. (not saying that people in Wingham are slow; but... )

    AS I understand it, for the time being Wingham Council's hands are tied, they have to wait for the LIRA before deciding to repair the dam, if the LIRA comes back negative or costs prove too high, then they will have to start the EA process again fro removal.

    As a side note to the designs presented by the students, in Listowel once Council made a decision and created a committee to look after removing the boards. There were pro-dam and anti-dam people on the committee, one of the pro-dam guys looked at the student designs, turned as asked if this is what we wanted, when told yes, he said lets get it done... he had not even looked at other options or considered anything other that keeping the dam. I have not heard any negative comments about draining the pond, only positive comments. The leader of the Pro-dam group in Listowel actually sent a letter to some Councillor praising how we had made the one side of the site look and she wanted to ensure that her side of the river looked the same. People can too easily put on blinders, only remember the past, and not look to the future.
    I may not change the world; but I'm gonna leave a scar. - Blackberry Smoke

  7. #7
    GBO Member Elias Sprenger's Avatar
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    Amazing how complicated these things get and the politics involved! Very interesting read Doug.

    On the topic of dams but unrelated to this topic... is it true the 're' construction of denny's dam was solely for the purpose of restricting sea lamprey? I've never heard that before, but have always wondered what the purpose of this particular dam is/was.

  8. #8
    GBO Member douggrant's Avatar
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    Than is what I have heard as well. I know that was one of the factors/questions from the MNRF when it came to the Listowel dam... was/is it a lamprey control dam?
    I may not change the world; but I'm gonna leave a scar. - Blackberry Smoke

  9. #9
    It's main purpose is lamprey prevention..YOU DO NOT WANT LAMPREY TO GET ABOVE DENNY'S...NEVER EVER... Treatment upstream would be almost impossible

    Lamprey can move up that river a lot faster than any steelhead. They can go where trout can't....Even up that new version of what the Owen Sound office calls a fishway at Maple Hill

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