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Barlow to speak against a proposed dam south-east of Ottawa


The historic mill and weir in Almonte, Ontario.

The historic mill and weir in Almonte, Ontario.

This week Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be in Almonte, an historic mill town established in 1818, which is situated about 50 kilometres south-east of Ottawa.

The Millstone reports, “Barlow will visit Almonte on Wednesday November 12 and will be speaking at the Mississippi Mills Textile Museum at 7pm. …Ms. Barlow is visiting Almonte in support of the local grassroots ‘Stop Enerdu’ campaign and will focus her talk on citizen activism. It promises to be an inspiring evening.”

This past June, Barlow signed a petition against the proposed Enerdu dam expansion. That petition states, “The proposed Enerdu hydroelectric project in downtown Almonte poses unacceptable environmental, heritage and economic risks to this community and should not be approved.”

According to various media reports, the plan being put forward is to replace the existing 19th century weir at the historic Wylie Flour Mill with a concrete dam to increase its current power generation capacity from 300 kilowatts to approximately 990 kilowatts. That electricity would then be sold to the community. The project would involve jackhammering and blasting out 1,500 square feet of rocky riverbed to create a head pond in front of the new dam. It would also require a large new building attached to the mill (which was built in 1842) that would stick out into the river as well as the construction of a large black rubber inflatable barrier upriver. The proponents – including Enerdu owner Jeff Cavanaugh of the Cavanaugh Construction family – had hoped to start construction this fall with the work completed within two years.

The concerns being raised by the community include the loss or damage of river attractions; loss or damage of natural habitat; new constructions including permanent fences, large river markers and signage; noise and vibration, and financial loss for tourism sector and local merchants.

Opposition appears to be solidifying against Enerdu in Almonte, which is now a ward in the town of Mississippi Mills. In August, Mississippi Mills town council voted 7-3 to formally withdraw any implied support for the dam expansion. Town council also passed a motion noting that there were numerous and significant inconsistencies, errors and unclear aspects in a heritage impact study done by Enerdu.

In May 2012, the town council approved in principle becoming a blue community.

Barlow and members of the Save Our River campaign will be discussing how to take action to protect water. Barlow will also be signing copies of her book Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever following the public event. For details on the event, please click here.