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The Department of National Defence has extended the public commenting period for the proposed hydroelectric pumped storage facility on the Meaford Tank Range to September 30.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the Department of National Defence is extending its public engagement period on TC Energy’s proposed hydroelectric project at the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre in Meaford, Ontario. The deadline has been extended to September 30, 2020,” said a DND media relations officer in response to an inquiry from The Independent. The deadline had previously been July 31. “We are committed to maintaining good relationships with our neighbours and keeping them informed on how we manage our property by providing opportunities for public engagement.”

The DND also noted that “We also recognize our legal duty to ensure that meaningful consultations take place between the Crown and Indigenous communities whenever we contemplate decisions or actions that may have an adverse impact on potential or established Aboriginal or treaty rights. These consultations are in progress and will continue. We will ensure that we hear and respond to Indigenous interests and concerns.”

The proposal has been the subject of significant concern for many Meaford residents since first learning of it nearly a year ago. In the months since the proposal first surfaced, a number of Meaford residents mobilized, forming the Save Georgian Bay group to raise awareness both in the community and beyond its borders.

TC Energy touts the proposal as 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.

Proponent TC Energy has been granted permission to undertake a feasibility study, and the temporary access agreement provides TC Energy with one year of access in order to complete its studies. The DND is conducting its own study, which will determine if the proposed facility could co-exist with activities at the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre.

Initial estimates by TC Energy have pegged the cost of the construction of the project at more than $3.3 billion.

Local residents, particularly those living in close proximity to the site, have raised a number of concerns ranging from potential damage to fish and other wildlife in Georgian Bay to fears that a failure of the reservoir could put hundreds of residents living below it at risk.

Since May 2019, DND has:

  • Provided information and updates to 38 Indigenous communities and groups concerning possible impacts to Aboriginal or treaty rights by providing TC Energy access to 4 CDTC Meaford. Consultations with interested Indigenous groups are ongoing;

  • Received over 600 emails and letters from interested individuals and parties;

  • Engaged with and heard from the public at three community town halls held by TC Energy, with over 400 people in attendance at each session;

  • Made a presentation at the Municipality of Meaford Special Meeting of the Council on 1 June 2020, which was live streamed and is available on the Municipality’s YouTube channel; and

  • Held meetings with interested community group leaders.

Those wanting to offer input or opinions about the proposal can send an e-mail with feedback to Holly King, Section Head, Directorate Real Property Services, DND, at ThirdPartyAccess@forces.gc.ca. The deadline for submission of comments is now extended to September 30.

More information can be found by visiting www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/consultations-4th-division-hydroelectric-pumped-storage-meaford.html and www.tcenergy.com/operations/power/pumped-storage-project/.