As we've all had time to learn more about the proposed hydroelectric pumped storage facility at Meaford's military base, many of us have been finding areas of concern, some serious, some less so, but all requiring answers. Over the weekend a public information session was hosted by a citizen group who call themselves Save Georgian Bay, and that meeting, while important and informative, provided just one side of the issue, and I am hoping in the not too distant future we can learn even more.
Before I continue, let's all remember that this proposal is simply that – a proposal, and it is in the very earliest of stages of a feasibility study. In short, this proposed project won't get underway any time soon, if it gets underway at all. There are many hurdles to cross, some of them quite massive given the environmental impact studies that would need to be undertaken along with a host of red tape to clear. If I were a betting man, I likely wouldn't be too concerned with this proposal at this point, given the hurdles ahead, and I would put my money on it never proceeding past the feasibility study stage. But I'm not a betting man, and many things have happened in my lifetime that I was convinced would never happen.
In my Rants & Raves column in our September 19 print paper I wrote about some of my initial concerns, and as time goes on my own list will no doubt grow, but hopefully I will be able to find answers to either confirm my concerns, or that will offer some comfort.
I doubt that there is anyone in this community who isn't concerned about any potential impact on the bay. I live a stone's throw from the water's edge, and I drive along our waterfront several times each day in my travels – the bay is a large part of why I moved to Meaford, and I certainly want to ensure its health for the years to come.
If a project such as is proposed damages the life in the bay, the impacts would be far-reaching. Such a scenario would destroy Meaford's popularity as a fishing destination, which in turn hurts local businesses. So we all need to feel certain that a project such as this will not muddy up our pristine bay, and kill millions of fish.
I also worry about the impact of such a project on neighbouring residents and of course their property values, which could be impacted if the project were to move forward.
As I wrote in our print paper on September 19, I am also concerned about the impact of bringing 800 workers into this small municipality for the projected four year construction period. How would Meaford accommodate such a large influx of bodies, and how would our services and businesses hold up under that pressure. Would Meaford businesses benefit at all, or would most of those workers head to the larger community of Owen Sound for their goods and services, leaving Meaford suffering the consequences but reaping none of the benefits of a major project like this?
Another concern I expressed in my September 19 column was that with any proposal such as this, we must always be on our guard simply because there are profits to be made. Don't ever be fooled by these sorts of proposals as there is nothing altruistic about them. No corporation would consider investing three billion dollars in any project unless there are significant profits to be made, so the proponent no doubt is anticipating billions in profits in order to justify billions in investment, and whenever there are profits to be made on projects like this, we are wise to ask as many questions as possible and to mull the pros and cons.
As you can see, the questions and concerns are many, and they are far-ranging. The information session held by citizens on October 12 was a good start, but I must say I was disappointed that the only information provided came from residents via online research. With two hundred residents in the community centre, it would have been beneficial to have also had representatives from TC Energy on hand to field questions and provide clarification. As was explained in an article published earlier this week, TC Energy offered to attend, make a presentation, and to answer questions, but that offer was declined by the organizers of the meeting, which is unfortunate because nobody benefits from hearing just one side of any story. For an issue as important as this, carrying significant potential consequences such as this, we need to hear from all sides, not just the most vocal among us.