Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Reader Offers Food For Thought Regarding Proposed Pumped Storage Facility

Letter to the Editor


In a recent letter to the Editor, John Mikkelson of TCE affirmed his company’s commitment to listen to valid concerns regarding his company’s proposal and accurately communicate with Meaford citizens. He states that the company does not have answers to all the questions as they are in the early stages of the process. I have no reason, at this time, to doubt his words.

After attending an Open House regarding the proposal I felt that TCE was taking community concerns seriously. It does not surprise me, however, that there are skeptics. That is always the case and often with good reason. I certainly have some concerns. For example, the corridors for the high tension lines to and from the pumping/generating station are a mystery at this time. I certainly want to know more about that.

One should not look critically at only the TCE statements. There may be positions held by opponents of the project which should be challenged. Here are some examples of comments made to me or I have read that I can not accept as being gospel, or maybe even reasonable, without further evidence.

Someone tried to persuade me that the water temperature will go up ten to twenty degrees. Really? The storage pond, apparently, will be about 200 Hectares, about two square Kilometres. I don’t know the depth. Cold water will be pumped in at night and go back to the Bay during the day. Not much sun time to warm it up. Meaford is situated on a body of water that has about 132 thousand square Kilometres of surface and about 12 thousand cubic Kilometres volume. (Read that again. Most countries in the world don’t have that much water.) Think about how much heat that soaks up in one hour on a sunny day compared to the ‘drop in a swimming pool’ storage pond. There will be no measurable temperature change in Georgian Bay attributable to this project.

I have been told that the vibrations from the pumps and generators will be felt as far away as the Beaver Valley. If the shaking is that great the pumps/generators would probably self-destruct in very short order. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Niagara Falls and walk about completely unaware of the fact that massive generating stations are humming away beneath them. The poker chips are not jumping off the casino tables because of vibrations. It is well documented that power generation in Niagara is not the cause of any of the beds shaking in nearby hotels.

Our shoreline will be silted up with millions of cubic metres of mud and sand. I suspect that a couple of autumn gales with massive waves removing the shoreline, or a few large rainfalls or spring thaws bringing silt, orchard sprays, fertilizer residue, cattle dung, and foul water from poor septic systems will cause more harm to the Bay than the construction and operation of this project. Why would any firm invest great amounts of money building a pond that they wanted to last for 40 or 50 years and then turn around and pump muddy water into it every day? The silt would settle to the bottom over the years and the pond volume diminished. I suspect that at least one of their experts has thought of that! They will be motivated to keep the water clean.

Great numbers of fish will be sucked up by the pumps is another comment I have heard. That is based on the assumption that there are great numbers of fish out there. A large part of downtown Toronto is cooled by water pulled from the bottom of Lake Ontario. The water used is deep and cold and sucked in through very large pipes at up to 70000 gallons PER MINUTE. After going through massive air conditioning cooling towers the treated water enters the municipal water system and sewage system and goes back into Lake Ontario. After making some calls, I have not been able to find any evidence that dead fish are clogging up the water filtration plant or cooling apparatus. Phone calls to friends who live in Niagara on the Lake have not led me to believe that fish from Lake Erie or the Niagara River have gone through the generating plants on both the Canadian and American sides of the gorge resulting in the fouling of the shores downstream. I should check with the Meaford Public Utilities and see if our municipal water intake sucks in many fish. The only thing I have found fishy about Meaford water is the bill I receive. A search about water taken from Lake Michigan to supply the huge city of Chicago through a number of offshore under-lake pipes does not mention fish entering the system. Zebra mussels seem to be the problem.

Meaford Council is ‘gutless’ (the word used) and should immediately take a stand against this project. That is what Meaford citizens want. I’m not sure how the person who made that claim arrived at that conclusion. I would have little respect for any representative I voted for who did not keep an open mind until all the factual information was available, pro and con. I haven’t made up my mind and I don’t want them to do so when there is so much at stake. They should take time and exhibit judgment based on due diligence. (That they may have little or no influence on the decision is moot.) If citizens wish to protest because they believe in a cause, good for them. However, councilors should not make up their minds based on how loudly the volume is turned up.

We have, just a short distance from town, a man-made reservoir which stores water for the purpose of power generation. That reservoir area is many times larger than the one proposed by TCE. Water from that reservoir has been running down the side of the Beaver Valley, generating cheap power at the bottom, for over a hundred years. Lake Eugenia. We are used to it and don’t even think about its existence. There are many successful pumped storage systems around the world operating with no backlash from local citizens and many are being enlarged. The Luddington operation in Michigan, often used as an example of potential problems by opponents, is old technology. Those reading this and saying that comparing the Lake Eugenia operation with the proposed Meaford project is like comparing apples to oranges should realize that comparing 50 year old Luddington to the future TCE proposal is also an apples to oranges comparison.

We should not build a green power source but turn the Military Base into a Provincial Park. Forget that idea. Think of the consequences when a tent peg being hammered in contacts something ‘live’.

TCE should reimburse, at current market value, the descendants of those whose land was expropriated when the base was established. That boat sailed almost 80 years ago. TCE is not buying the land and had nothing to do with the expropriation. The land on which the first home my parents built was part of what became Hwy 26, just north of the Ultramar gas station. The land was expropriated when the highway was moved from what is now Grandview Drive. They got peanuts from the Province. Do I and my siblings and our offspring deserve compensation? Not a chance. Past history.

Trans Canada is only trying to make money. Why don’t they share some of the profits with those of us who live nearby as we will be the ones affected. Is there anything wrong with making a profit? If someone wants part of it buy some shares, about 75 bucks each now and a reasonable dividend return.

To sum up, I love Georgian Bay. I have cruised all over it for a long time and know it very, very, well. When I see the building of scores of ugly wind turbines on the east shore in pristine cruising territory among the 30000 Islands it makes me very unhappy. My home is on the water looking out over the Cape and the Military Base. I don’t want that view or the water to be ruined and this proposal is not going to change that view any more than placing a cell tower up on the hill or, from what I understand at this time, have any great or long lasting effect on our water quality. When I moved back to Meaford I knew that I would be subjected from time to time to the sound of machine guns and artillery and helicopters flying low over my home. My windows would sometimes rattle during a barrage. I was prepared to live with that and anyone who purchased land close to a long established active military base has to accept that. However, significant noise or air pollution over a long period of time from a nearby construction project is not on anyone’s wish list and must be a cause for concern. The jury is out on this project and it should be. We have a long way to go before the shovels hit the ground, if they ever do. Any ‘facts’ presented by TCE and opponents to the project deserve close scrutiny.

Use some common sense and think carefully about what you are told by anyone with an axe to grind.

Jim Hepple, Meaford

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