Sunday, April 21, 2024

Another Community Opposes Pumped Storage Proposal

Another Georgian Bay-area municipal council has voted in favour of a resolution expressing opposition to TC Energy’s proposed hydro-electric pumped storage facility to be located on the grounds of the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre, in the Municipality of Meaford.

During their February 12 council meeting, the Township of Georgian Bay voted unanimously in favour of a resolution that largely mirrors a resolution passed by the council for the Township of The Archipelago in November of last year. The Township of Georgian Bay includes the communities of Honey Harbour, MacTier, and Port Severn.

Now therefore be it resolved that the Council for the Township of Georgian Bay opposes the TC Energy Pumped Storage Project on Georgian Bay and urges DND to immediately implement measures to remediate the military base to ensure that the area is fit for human and animal habitation,” read part of the Township of Georgian Bay’s resolution. “And be it further resolved that the MoE cease their support of the Project, accept the IESO recommendations that the Project should not be approved, and therefore avoid placing an unnecessary financial burden on Ontario taxpayers; and be it finally resolved that this resolution be forwarded to all municipalities in the Georgian Bay Basin, the IESO, DND, the Honourable Andre Khanjin Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Honourable Graydon Smith Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Scott Aitchison, M.P. Parry Sound-Muskoka, Diane Lebouthillier Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to request their co-operation in preventing this project from proceeding.”

The resolution was moved by Township of Georgian Bay councillor Stephen Jarvis, and received unanimous support from the remainder of council. During their February 12 discussion of the motion, councillors were primarily concerned with the potential for polluting Georgian Bay with contaminates that have accumulated over the decades at the military base.

Councillor Jarvis acknowledged that there have not yet been environmental studies to suggest that there would be environmental impacts, but he stressed that there could be adverse impacts on the health of the bay should be project be allowed to proceed.

Following the approval of the Township of Georgian Bay’s February 12 resolution, local advocacy group Save Georgian Bay issued a media release in support of the resolution.

The township is the third municipality around the Georgian Bay basin to come out against the proposal in three months. On November 17th, the council of the Township of The Archipelago in Parry Sound District first passed a resolution “vehemently” opposing the project. Then on December 18th, the Town of Blue Mountains, which includes Thornbury, followed suit with a similar resolution that also denounced the project as a bad financial deal for Ontario,” noted Save Georgian Bay in their media release.

Tom Buck of Save Georgian Bay noted that Georgian Bay itself does not have municipal boundaries.

This resolution rightly recognizes the waters of Georgian Bay follow no municipal boundaries,” noted Buck. “The water touches all of us. Because of that, everyone on the Bay should have a say.”

The Georgian Bay Association have also expressed opposition to the proposed pumped storage facility, as was noted in Save Georgian Bay’s media release.

This demonstrates there is widespread concern about this project beyond the immediate area and the opposition of Save Georgian Bay,” said Rupert Kindersley, executive director of the Georgian Bay Association, an umbrella advocacy group for 18 community associations. “We add our voice asking Minister Smith to reconsider the project and consider more cost-effective alternatives for energy storage.”

The proposed facility has raised concerns among many Meaford residents since it was first announced in 2019. Save Georgian Bay, a local advocacy group, has been working to raise awareness of, and opposition to, the proposed facility. The group has held a number of protest rallies, and has collected thousands of signatures on petitions opposing the proposed facility. Recently, Save Georgian Bay has been calling upon bay area municipalities to express opposition to the proposed pumped storage plant.

The concerns of opponents are many, ranging from fears that the facility would have negative impacts on the environment, including negatively impacting fish in the bay, to concerns that homeowners in close proximity to the site could be in danger of flooding should the reservoir fail.

TC Energy, on the other hand, says the proposal is a green initiative that would consume inexpensive off-peak power at night to pump water from Georgian Bay into a 374-acre storage reservoir located 150 metres above the Georgian Bay shoreline on the military base. The reservoir, which would hold 20 million cubic metres of water, would be emptied back into Georgian Bay during peak usage periods, driving hydraulic turbines to generate electricity.

In February of last year, in a 5-2 vote, Meaford’s council approved a motion offering conditional support for the project, subject to a number of conditions including confirmation with TC Energy that the municipality will be compensated for all costs incurred related to the proposal, development of an agreement with TC Energy for short- and long-term community benefits, and subject to the approval of the proposed facility by all relevant jurisdictions including environmental impact assessments, and all other required regulatory approvals.

When asked in January about the motions approved by the Township of the Archipelago and the Town of the Blue Mountains, Meaford’s Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney, who brought forward the motion of conditional support that Meaford’s council approved in February of last year, told The Independent those municipalities had insufficient data to approve their motions.

It is important to note that Trans Canada Energy has not to date had any communication or engagement with the Township of the Archipelago, so I struggle to understand how their council felt well enough informed to support this motion. I believe it is always critical to understand all sides of an issue before making any decision. We are the most heavily impacted community yet no one from either municipality reached out to Meaford for our input or perspective. I do maintain that our council, staff, and residents are the best informed of any municipality since we have access to ongoing communication with TC Energy and we have the advantage of the excellent research completed by members of Save Georgian Bay,” Keaveney noted in her response.

In July of last year, council approved the appointment of two consulting firms, StrategyCorp and Ainley Group, to assist council and the municipality in moving through the process.

StrategyCorp were engaged to work on the development and negotiation of a community benefit agreement with TCE, while Ainley Group were awarded project coordinator services,” noted the report to council. “Since that time, staff have had initial conversations with both organizations, in an effort to ensure that the municipal work related to this project move forward smoothly. Staff intend to provide Council with a quarterly update on the TCE Pumped Storage project, generally at the first meeting of each quarter, along with additional information as required.”

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