The Facts about the Bala Falls Hydro Project:

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Over the last few months, significant changes to the proposed Bala hydro plant have come to light. Swift River Energy Limited, the private Toronto Company driving this project, is finally releasing a few details of their newly proposed design and are now attempting to rush it through Township and District approvals before the public becomes fully aware of their broken promises, in an to attempt to begin construction this spring. What is the rush?

Originally, Swift River Energy stated “Our intention is to harmonize the architecture of the new facility with the natural environment of the site by installing a low-profile power house built mostly underground (bunker-type). Its roof will be below road level. We will not use Township land.” But this is old news. This is the bait.

Here’s the switch part. Their current proposal is now for:

· A large building rising nearly three storeys (28 feet) above Highway 169, directly beside the scenic North Falls, a few feet from the roadway, stretching down to the river.

· A building representing a 48% increase in size over the version presented for the environmental assessment and which, with its driveway, will stretch 52 feet along the roadway, thus replacing many beautiful mature trees.

· A proposed widening of Highway169 during construction which will eliminate many of the remaining trees on this land, leaving a barren property and a large building to frame the once iconic Bala Falls; ruining the primary tourist attraction in West Muskoka. Use of Township of Muskoka land south of the north falls as a staging area.

· Construction which now calls for blasting a 30’ x 30’ tunnel in the base rock directly adjacent to the Highway 169 Bridge causing significant delays while putting at risk the bridge foundations and the only route through West Muskoka other than detouring via Highway 400.

· The plant to make hundreds of feet of the limited public shoreline in Bala too dangerous to access, which will likely result in high fencing around the area to protect the public by denying them access to the river.

· The plant to include Cycling, in addition to the originally promised exclusive Run of River, to allow the developer to take advantage of premium rates during peak electrical usage periods and allow this private-for-profit contractor to significantly reduce scenic flow over both Bala falls throughout the year and to manage water levels for all the Muskoka lakes.

· Total blockage of the historic Bala Portage, thus insulting the Heritage of the First Nations who settled the region, and forcing the use of more dangerous and less viable routes elsewhere for youth campers and others.

Why is this hugely unpopular project being allowed to proceed? This will result in a devastating blow to Bala and its tourism-based economy, not to mention the hugely significant loss to Muskoka of one of its most accessible, beautiful and natural landmarks. We have to stand up and protect this unique gem from a bullying Provincial Government, and an aggressive proponent, and let them know they do not have the right to force this on our region and further reduce Ontario’s stock of remaining unexploited and undefaced waterfalls.

Ontario’s Auditor General has stated that these small power projects – based on the Green Energy Act’s Feed in Tariff program – are no longer needed due to over-capacity, and that they are a direct contributor to the rapidly-rising hydro rates in the province. The power from this project will simply add to the growing sell-off of excess energy to the US at great losses to the province, while we, the taxpayers, pay significantly over-cost guaranteed rates to a few private profiteers for the next 40 years, to enable the MNR to get out of controlling the Bala dams and to allow the provincial government to adhere to its narrow and redundant ideology.

We are asking for your support to help us save our heritage and nature’s gift of the Bala Falls for the enjoyment of future generations of residents and visitors; not for the future generation of cash for a private developer. Go to www.savethebalafalls.com to join the growing opposition to the proposed construction and add your support. You can also check out social media under Save The Bala Falls, and make your view known there.

Ted Farley Bala, Ontario

6 COMMENTS

  1. Ted, I have been following this since the beginning and it is, indeed, appalling. I receive the newsletters and have added my voice when I can. After coming to Bala my whole life, I am now bringing my grandchildren and I want them to be able to continue enjoying the Bala that I know. Christine Nemec Cousins

  2. Gang! It’s a done deal! Wynne is in full support of green energy projects! She has stated it many many times! Time to change attitude and work with the project team!

    • It is not a done deal. I just spent a half hour meeting with premier Wynne pointing out the dangers and many other negatives of proceeding with this ill-advised plan in the middle of a picturesque tourist location. She requested and received copies of my pictures and reasons against building such a white elephant plant in Muskoka. She then thanked me for my perseverance in bringing these matters to her attention.
      Does anyone see any signs of construction or approval by the community? There aren’t any.

      • She said thanks to you, then after a few mins forgot what the meeting was all about. She doesn’t care about Muskoka. She wont do anything to stop it. Dalton/Wynne changed the laws to allow this type of thing to happen

  3. I’m for development, for sustainable energy production, and vehemently against this project. Our property is quite some distance north of Bala so I can’t be accused of NIMBYism. We have lots of railway bridges, dams, and minor industrial facilities around Muskoka and in some ways these all add to the charm of the region. But these small hydro projects frankly are economically inefficient, make virtually no dent in our carbon footprint, and destroy our precious natural heritage. I’m all for private investment in our province’s infrastructure, but it needs to happen with the full support of the local community. That’s not the case here and there is no over-riding public interest nor would any amount of compensation off-set the long term harm caused to the community and region. It’s up to local government to shut this down.

  4. I was raised in Bala, went to school there. My dad owned the Cotton Club restaurant. The Falls were/are a beautiful site and should be left alone!!!
    I hope someone there has the “balls” to stop this and run this company out of town.

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