Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Bala Falls - a 2nd guest post Part 20

Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 10:11 PM

Subject: Bala Update

Bala Falls - fall
Dear Moon River Friends and Neighbours,

Thank you for all of your comments from the note that I sent you about the issues in Bala.  In particular, Stephen Rigbey was able to give me some excellent insights on the Hydro project.  Many of you will know Stephen since he and his family have cottaged on the Moon for almost a century.  They have been excellent stewards of the River (Stephen was one of the first to start water testing in a scientific way) and since he is employed as a Hydropower Engineer by BC Hydro, Stephen has the engineering knowledge to comment as an expert on the subject.  Here is what he had to say:
Dear David,

I am compelled to comment on your email (about the hydro project).  I am too far removed from the politics to give opinion on that aspect, but I can give what I believe is a unique perspective on the Save the Bala Falls controversy.  It’s unique because while my family has been on the Moon for just about a hundred years (we predate the original Bala Falls hydro development), I have spent my 30 year engineering career working on sustainable hydropower projects, across Canada and overseas.  As such, I have followed the Swift River proposal with much interest. In my professional opinion, Swift River has spent the time to provide you with answers that are both thoughtful and thoroughly truthful. The benefits of small hydro, located close to where the power is to be used, are not being overplayed – they are real, and cannot be emulated by alternative energy sources such as wind power.

Power production is one of modern society’s basic needs. However, any power source, including alternatives such as wind power, comes with environmental and social cost; acceptance of projects requires compromise and tradeoffs.  It’s up to us to decide whether the benefits justify the cost, on a case-by-case basis.  Some projects are clearly not justified, others are marginal, other relatively benign.

Society needs new sustainable power that comes with minimal environmental/social impacts.  The proposed project will restrict the amount of water going over the south falls, and the “spill” will definitely not be as impressive, and will be minimal in dry periods.  That’s about it.  The north falls, where most people go, really won’t really be affected at all in the summer months.  Of course, any construction period is a period of upheaval, and the impacts must be properly mitigated.  I’m sure that many of us remember when the south falls bypass and highway bridge were constructed at just about the same location. I’ve been involved with a lot of construction projects – it’ll be similar to that.

The proposed project depletes none of our earth’s resources, burns no coal, floods no land, disturbs no fish or wildlife, produces no radioactive waste, kills no migratory birds.  If it doesn’t go ahead, the project that is eventually built to replace the power that isn’t generated at Bala will do at least some of these, while producing power much less efficiently.   I simply can’t think of a power project anywhere with less social and environmental impact.

I urge (everyone) to take the time to understand the real issues and not simply react with a “not in my backyard” approach.  Please consider all the facts and look at the bigger picture of what is best before deciding which way to vote.  If you do decide that small hydro power makes sense, Swift River must still be taken to task to ensure minimal construction upheaval, that the best aesthetically pleasing layout is chosen, and that minimum flows at the south falls remain acceptable.

Although I now live and work in British Columbia, a large piece of me remains on the Moon.

Best Regards,

Stephen Rigbey  MASc. PEng.

Manager, Dam Safety
BC Hydro

Thanks to Stephen for publicly sharing his illuminating comments.

I hope that you (like me) found his insights enlightening.  You might also enjoy reading the letters to the editor which were published this week in the Gravenhurst Banner, the Bracebridge Examiner and Muskoka Today.  They can be found at:>  from me>  from Mike Webb

Finally,  I have added an attachment letter from a Moon River resident directly across from the falls.

Enjoy your weekend. We are on the Moon, hope you are too.


David Sculati

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