Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Owen Sound Council Offers Conditional Support For Pumped Storage Proposal

In recent months, four bay area municipalities (Township of The Archipelago, Township of Georgian Bay, Town of the Blue Mountains, Parry Sound) have passed motions 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. However last week Owen Sound’s council unanimously approved a motion offering conditional support for the proposal.

The project will provide flexible, clean energy to Ontario’s electricity system, sufficient to power one million homes and reduce carbon emissions by 490,000 tonnes annually. The project will also prioritize local skilled workers, suppliers, and businesses, stimulating both job creation and economic activity in Owen Sound. During construction, the project looks to create 1,000 well-paid, unionized jobs, and Ontario-based companies will provide more than 75 per cent of the total materials and supplies,” said the City of Owen Sound in a media release issued after council’s March 25 decision. “In addition, the project’s collaboration with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation underscores a commitment to inclusive development, long-term partnerships, and shared benefits between all regional partners.”

Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy said that the project presents a unique opportunity for the area.

The Ontario Pumped Storage Project presents a unique opportunity for both Owen Sound and Grey County. By supporting this project, the City can foster community growth, environmental sustainability, and energy security in Ontario,” said Boddy.

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.

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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