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Barlow calls on McKenna to stop Enerdu dam in Almonte

Photo: On July 4, Council of Canadians Mississippi Mills chapter activists joined with local allies to protest a proposed dam on the Mississippi River.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has joined the call for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to issue an emergency order to stop the construction of the Enerdu Power Systems hydroelectric dam on the Mississippi River in Almonte, a town of 5,000 people located just south-west of Ottawa.

The Toronto Star has explained, “The [dam] expansion, aimed for completion in January 2018, will see construction crews blast out the river bed to deepen the channel, install two large turbines, and a new building to house the extra elements.” Construction work has already begun with gravel being dumped into the river (as can be seen in this 45-second Facebook video).

CBC reports, “Mississippi Mills, Ont., mayor Shaun McLaughlin said he wants the federal government to put the brakes on the Enerdu dam project. He’s calling on McKenna to step in with an emergency order, like she did last month to protect a rare frog in Quebec. …Opponents of the dam say the rapids clubtail dragonfly, which is listed as endangered in Ontario, has been spotted in the Mississippi River near the site of the dam expansion. They want the area to be studied to see if the flies breed in the area.”

Organizer Linda Manzer says, “We have a documented endangered dragonfly right here, we know it.” And Mayor McLaughlin has noted, “There’s 300 of these dragonflies left in Canada, maybe just 20 of them here. If you care about endangered species — if you really care about them — you stop things.”

There are other notable reasons to oppose the dam.

In a recent op-ed published in the Toronto Star, Manzer comments, “Jeff Cavanagh, owner of Enerdu, is determined and has ample resources.  Yes, his dam will generate electricity. But, actually, no new energy will be added to the overall grid because the Appleton dam just upstream will lose whatever power it gains due to changing water levels, according to a report by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Cavanagh also says his project will create jobs, which is true. But they’re just temporary jobs. Once the project is done, there will be, at most, a few employees. Unlike another power plant downstream, which is owned and operated by the town, Cavanagh’s privately owned plant will add no new revenue to Almonte.”

Metro News highlights, “[More than] 5,000 people have signed the online petition posted July 5 – including celebrities like Bruce Cockburn and Paul Simon – asking McKenna to halt the project they argue will harm an endangered dragonfly and ruin a heritage waterfall in the heart of the village. With all provincial permits in place, residents are largely out of options unless McKenna steps in.”

The environment minister is now aware of the situation and there are news reports that her office is seeking more information on the situation.

That means additional public pressure could make a difference.

Please sign this petition calling on McKenna to issue the emergency order.

Further reading
Barlow opposes dam expansion in Almonte (June 28, 2014)
Barlow to speak against a proposed dam south-east of Ottawa (November 9, 2014)
Mississippi Mills chapter attends vigil in the river (July 5, 2016)