Meaford Councillor Paul Vickers introduced a motion at the Monday, May 9 council meeting asking municipal staff to prepare a report outlining the potential benefits that the municipality could realize should the controversial pumped storage facility proposed for the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre ultimately move forward.
In his motion, which found the support of council, Vickers noted that in June of 2020 the municipality identified a number of concerns with the proposal that it hopes will be addressed during the federal and provincial approval processes, but he also suggested that now is the time to begin considering the potential benefits to the community should the project ultimately be realized.
The proposed facility has raised concern among many Meaford residents since it was first announced more than two years ago. 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.
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.
Proponent TC Energy, on the other hand, says the proposal is a green initiative that would use 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.
“Whereas, Council remains committed to have all reports Peer Reviewed by qualified consultants as part of the Impact Assessment process; Whereas, notwithstanding the approval process, Council wants to ensure that the Municipality receives the greatest economic benefit possible should the project receive approval from the appropriate bodies,” noted Vickers in his motion.
Council voted in favour of the motion which directs municipal staff to “bring back a report that outlines possible community benefits that can be achieved should the project proceed, including negotiations of a possible Community Benefits Agreement for consideration by Council.”
Vickers noted that if the proposed project is approved, the municipality will endure several years of inconvenience due to an influx of as many as 800 workers, along with heavy trucks and equipment over the estimated four-year construction period of the more than $4 billion project, which would be the largest construction project in the province should it be realized.
“Some of my concerns are that the project is moving along through the environmental assessment stage, and by no means am I saying that we support it, or reject it at this stage. I think it’s important to go through the process, and to see what the environmental assessment stage comes up with,” Vickers told council while introducing his motion. “But in the meantime, the project does seem to be moving along through the different processes, so I just want to make sure that the municipality, you know, we’re the ones that are going to take the brunt of the construction, that we get compensated for that. Since it is on DND land, so we can’t expect an increase in assessment with this project, but there are ways that we can negotiate with TCE that if the project is going ahead that we can get something that the community can benefit from.”
Fellow members of council supported the motion, and voted in favour of requesting the report from staff prior to council’s summer break in August.