Comment - Shickluna March 2010

Comment - Shickluna March 2010

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BY MAIL AND EMAILMarch 5, 2010Noel Boucher, Environmental CoordinatorHatch4342 Queen Street, Suite 500 Niagara Falls, ON L2E 7J7Email: nboucher@hatch.caCC: Department of Fisheries and Oceans Transport Canada Environment Canada Health Canada Ontario Ministry of the Environment Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario Ministry of Transportation Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Environmental Commissioner for Ontario Dear Mr. Boucher:Re: Environmental Screening Report Shickluna Hydroelectric Project, St. Catharines Hydro Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry # 08-01-44418Please find enclosed Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s comments on the proposal by St. Catharines Hydro to construct and operate a dam in Twelve Mile Creek, St. Catharines. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact our counsel, Joanna Bull, at 416-861-1237.Yours truly,Mark MattsonWaterkeeper & President 600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6T 416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca www.waterkeeper.caProud member of Waterkeeper Alliance1BACKGROUND St. Catharines Hydro Generation Inc. (SCHGI) has submitted a proposal for the construction of a hydroelectric dam across Twelve Mile Creek near downtown St. Catharines, Ontario. The Shickluna Generating Station (“the dam”), would produce between 3.5 and 5.5 MW of electricity, and consist of a powerhouse, four spillway gates, and a fish-way or fish ...

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BY MAIL AND EMAIL
March 5, 2010
Noel Boucher, Environmental Coordinator Hatch 4342 Queen Street, Suite 500 Niagara Falls, ON L2E 7J7 Email: nboucher@hatch.ca CC:Department of Fisheries and Oceans Transport Canada Environment Canada Health Canada Ontario Ministry of the Environment Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario Ministry of Transportation Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Environmental Commissioner for Ontario
Dear Mr. Boucher:
Re:
Environmental Screening Report Shickluna Hydroelectric Project, St. Catharines Hydro Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry # 08-01-44418
Please find enclosed Lake Ontario Waterkeepers comments on the proposal by St. Catharines Hydro to construct and operate a dam in Twelve Mile Creek, St. Catharines. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact our counsel, Joanna Bull, at 416-861-1237.
Yours truly,
Mark Mattson Waterkeeper & President
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca www.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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BACKGROUND
St. Catharines Hydro Generation Inc. (SCHGI) has submitted a proposal for the construction of a hydroelectric dam across Twelve Mile Creek near downtown St. Catharines, Ontario. The Shickluna Generating Station (“the dam”), would produce between 3.5 and 5.5 MW of electricity, and consist of a powerhouse, four spillway gates, and a fish-way or fish ladder. It would span the entire width of the creek and result in significant changes to the water level and creek bed, both up and downstream from the site.
Twelve Mile Creek ows north towards Lake Ontario. It is fed by a network of streams, as well as connecting through Lake Moodie and Lake Gibson to the Welland Canal and Lake Erie. The creek provides habitat for the American eel, an endangered species, as well as more than twenty other cold-water fish species. A recreational trail runs along the river and whitewater paddlers use the weirs in the area as “play spots”.
The proposed location on Twelve Mile Creek is 150 metres upstream from the Fourth Avenue Bridge, near the intersection of Ontario Street and Welland Avenue in downtown St. Catharines. The land, including the bed of Twelve Mile Creek, is owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), and would be leased to SCHGI.OPG already operates the DeCew hydro dam 550 metres upstream from the proposed site. St. Catharines Hydro operates the Heywood dam downstream from the site, at Port Dalhousie.
The detailed design of the facility is not currently available for review because suppliers for the equipment have not been selected. Instead, Hatch, the environmental consulting firm hired by SCHGI to prepare the Environmental Screening Report (ESR) pursuant to the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act, has identified a preferred set of mechanical and electrical components. Once tenders have gone out and suppliers have been confirmed, equipment will be selected and the design finalized. At that point, the detailed design will require approval from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) under theLakes and Rivers Improvement Act.
The turbine options being considered mean the ow rate could be anywhere from 185 to 225 3 m /s and the station could produce between 3.5 and 5.5 MW. The dam would include four operable spillway gates and a powerhouse built within the channel of Twelve Mile Creek. It would be a “run-of-the-river” style dam, meaning that a minimal amount of water is stored in a head pond and water is allowed to ow through either the turbines, spillway or fish-way on a continuous basis. The project would include the construction of a powerhouse, intake and tailrace channels, a spillway, a fish-way, a distribution line, and a permanent access road. There will be a cooling water system installed for the powerhouse.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 Twww.waterkeeper.ca416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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The project plans include significant changes to the bed and banks of Twelve Mile Creek, both up and downstream of the site. The powerhouse will consist of a concrete structure built in the existing creek bed. Intake structures will consist of concrete piers and steel “trashracks” to collect debris. The plan includes the excavation of the riverbed from 23 metres upstream, so that the water approaches the turbines at a 25% slope. The tailrace would be 12 metres long, raising the riverbed at a 25% slope to match the downstream river. The spillway would consist of four overow steel ap gates that could be lowered or raised to change the amount of water upstream. The access road under the Fourth Avenue bridge will be excavated to allow for more vehicle clearance and the existing Combined Sewer Overow discharge pipe will have to be moved. A distribution line approximately 100 metres long will be connected below ground to a nearby existing 13.8 kV line. A “natural channel-type pool and rife” fish-way will be installed on the west bank of Twelve Mile Creek, next to the spillway.
The project as proposed would significantly impair navigation and fish habitat and movement in Twelve Mile Creek. It requires a number of approvals from various government agencies at both the provincial and federal levels. At the federal level, an environmental assessment will have to be completed pursuant to theCanadian Environmental Assessment Actbecause St. Catharines Hydro needs federal approval for the project under theFisheries Actand theNavigable Waters Protection ActCanada (TC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are the. Transport Responsible Authorities (RA) for the federal EA, with TC as the lead agency. Expert evidence is being provided by Environment Canada and Health Canada. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is the federal environmental assessment coordinator.
In order to proceed, SCHGI would require DFO approval under s.35(2) of theFisheries Actfor the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat and under s.32 for the destruction of fish by means other than fishing. SCHGI also required DFO approval under s.20 for the construction and maintenance of a fish-way, s.22 to ensure there is sufficient downstream ow to support fish habitat and breeding, and s.30 for the installation of fish guards on intake structures. SCHGI would require approval from TC for building a work in and across a navigable waterway under s.5(1) and 5(2) of theNavigable Waters Protection Act(NWPA).
At the provincial level, an Environmental Screening under Ontario Regulation 116/01 (Electricity Projects) of the OntarioEnvironmental Assessment Actis required. The ESR that is currently being reviewed by the public was created to fulfill this provincial environmental screening requirement. SCHGI also requires approvals from the Ontario MNR under theLakes and Rivers Improvement Act(LRIA) and theEndangered Species Act(ESA). The company is required to complete a Simple Water Management Plan (WMP) under s.23.1(1) theLRIAbecause the MNR ordered its preparation. When it is completed, the WMP will be posted on the Environmental Registry for public review. If the WMP is approved, SCHGI will need to obtain approval from the
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca www.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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MNR for the detailed project designs. SCHGI would also require approval from the MNR to proceed with the project under theESAbecause the project has the potential to kill, harm, or harass the American eel, a threatened species.
The proponent would also require approvals from the provincial Ministry of the Environment, including a Certificate of Approval for discharging sewage, a Certificate of Approval for noise emissions, and a Permit to Take Water for taking more than 50 000 litres per day of water from the creek. A variety of land use permits and approvals are also required from agencies including the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and the Regional Municipality of Niagara.
COMMENT
The project cannot be built across the entire span of Twelve Mile Creek.
According to theFisheries Act,one-third the width of any freshwater river or stream must be “always left open”, with no material of any kind used or placed therein: 26 (1) One-third of the width of any river or stream and not less than two-thirds of the width of the main channel at low tide in every tidal stream shall be always left open, and no kind of net or other fishing apparatus, logs or any material of any kind shall be used or placed therein.
The only Ministerial exemption to this requirement is for the placement of barriers or screens across a stream to prevent the escape of fish that are held for breeding or another reason in the public interest (s.26(c)). As the dam is not being constructed to “prevent the escape of fish”, whether for breeding or another public interest, there is no exception to the requirement to leave of a river or stream open and free of any material, and no Ministerial authorization is available under theFisheries Act.
It is clear from the wording of the section that a river or stream is not “left open” if any material of any kind is used or placed therein. Therefore, although fishmaybe able to pass through the dam at the spillway or fish-way, these do not constitute “open” water for the purposes of the Fisheries Act.
Even if the construction of a passable spillway or fish-way satisfied the requirement in the Fisheries Actto leaveof the river “open”, it would be necessary for fish to be able to pass both
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up and downstream at all times. This would require the fish-way to constitute at leastthe width of the creek, and for it to function properly at all times throughout the year.
Recommendation 1:The project must be redesigned to leave at leastof the width of Twelve Mile Creek free of any material in order to comply with theFisheries Act.
The project must not be built in a way that harms fish or fish habitat, especially the endangered American eel.
Twelve Mile Creek is home to a variety of fish species. As the only cold water fishery in the Niagara region, the creek serves as habitat for a number of cold water species, including white sucker, alewife, carp, emerald shiner, brown bullhead, channel catfish, white perch, rock bass, pumpkinseed, small and largemouth bass, log perch, and the round goby.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated that the proposed Shickluna dam will cause a harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat. Mitigation measures resulting in no net loss of productive capacity of fish habitat are required by the Department. Additionally, authorization to destroy fish by means other than fishing is required from DFO because the dam will destroy fish that try to pass through or are sucked into the turbines.
The American eel is a Threatened Species under OntariosEndangered Species Act(ESA) and has been considered a candidate for “Species of Concern” status under theSpecies At Risk Act (SARAa prized and plentiful species and source of food in the Great Lakes, the). Once American eels numbers have been greatly reduced since the 1950s due to hydro dams that block access to spawning grounds, overfishing, the introduction of zebra mussels, the loss of wetlands, a reduction of food sources, and an increase in pollutants.
The American eels presence has been confirmed throughout the length of Twelve Mile Creek, both in the upper reaches above the DeCew dam, in Martindale Pond near Port Dalhousie, and near the shore of Lake Ontario where the creek empties. The eels must be able to move throughout its length in order to reproduce and travel enormous distances throughout their lifespan, as described in the ESR:
All American eel in North America are born in the Sargasso Sea (COSEWIC, 2006), located in the North Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Bermuda. Eel larvae (leptocephalus, glass eel and elver life stages) then migrate back to the freshwaters of coastal North America, where they reside for the majority of their life cycle. Migration up the St. Lawrence River is the primary means of access to Lake Ontario and its tributaries, where the majority of eels in Ontario reside and grow into the yellow eel life phase.
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Upon maturation to the silver eel phase, which may occur between the ages of 8 and 23 (COSEWIC, 2006), all eels migrate back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. All eels die after spawning.
The MNR has confirmed that the proposed dam has the potential to kill, harm, or harass the American eel. The dam itself will block migration of the eels up and downstream to some extent, and potentially fully depending on the effectiveness of the eel and fish ladders. In addition, construction activities on the creek could negatively impact eel movement, notably during the three week period when no passage past the dam will be possible (See ESR, p.4-33).
Due to its anticipated impacts on the American eel, SCHGI requires either a permit or an agreement with the MNR in order to build the project. The company must be able to show that the project does not jeopardize the survival or recovery of a species at risk, and satisfy the MNR that they have implemented mitigation and monitoring to reduce the risk of the proponent violating theESA.
In addition to the American eel, twenty other species of fish will also require safe passage upstream past the proposed dam, including the brook trout, hornyhead chub, johnny darter, northern hog sucker, rainbow darter, and stonecat. Therefore, any fish passage installed must accommodate the American eel and these species. To comply with s.20 of theFisheries Act, the fish-way must be built, “in such place and of such form and capacity as will in the opinion of the Minister satisfactorily permit the free passage of fish through it”. SCHGI must also obtain up and downstream criteria for the fish passage from DFO. The agency will need to approve the designs for the fish-way, trashracks, fish-way operation plan, and fish-way monitoring plan.
In Lake Ontario Waterkeepers experience studying the impacts of dams on fish passage, we have discovered that engineered solutions do not always protect fish as intended. Our participation in the Petitcodiac River Causeway Environmental Impact Study taught us, for example, that dams and causeways impact fish passage in a variety of ways. A few examples include changing water temperatures, creating siltation, and restricting water ows in such a way that the obstruction creates more than just a physical barrier for fish. It is our understanding from such studies that structures intended to facilitate fish passage must be engineered with a wide variety of variables in mind and that true protection of fish passage may not always be possible.
Eel ladders that are currently installed on power dams in the Lake Ontario watershed have been recognized as insufficient to ensure protection of the American eel. In May 2009, a notice on the Environmental Registry (posting 010-6679) noted that the MNR was considering an agreement under theESAwith the R.H. Saunders Generating Station, operated by OPG in the St. Lawrence
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 Twww.waterkeeper.ca416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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River. In that posting, the MNR listed measures required to protect the eelover and abovethe installation and monitoring of an eel ladder: 1. Stocking of young eels into the upper St. Lawrence – Lake Ontario (USL-LO) watershed to supplement their natural recruitment. Stocked eels would be marked and monitored to determine survival, growth and maturity. 2. Implementation of a trap and transport pilot project as a method of moving mature eels from the USL-LO watershed to the lower St. Lawrence River beyond any migration barriers. The project would be monitored to compare transported eels to naturally migrating eels and evaluate the effectiveness of trap and transport to mitigate turbine mortality.
While the ESR says that young glass eels will be stocked in Jordan Harbour or the Lower Niagara River in 2011 and 2012 to “create a net benefit” for eels, the experience at the R.H. Saunders dam suggests that stocking eel, as well as a trap and transport system, would be permanently necessary at the facility to supplement the effects (if any) of an eel or fish-way.
Recommendation 2:The project cannot proceed without further protections in place for the American eel, including evidence of the efficacy of any proposed fish or eel-ladder technology.
Recommendation 3:Any approvals granted for the project must be contingent on the efficacy of the measures put in place to protect the American eel, such that the dam must be removed or modified if it is found to jeopardize the survival and recovery of the eel.
The project must not impede the publics right to navigate on Twelve Mile Creek.
The right to navigate on Twelve Mile Creek must be considered and protected before any approvals for this project can be granted. The use of the creek for navigation, particularly by kayakers and canoeists who use the weirs to facilitate their sport, has been documented and is reected in the ESR. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has conducted a site visit of the section of the river proposed for the Shickluna dam. We are concerned that the existing boom, installed by OPG, may be a violation of theNavigable Waters Protection Actexistence of other dams. The blocking navigation on the river does not justify restricting navigation in this section of the river, and instead should be considered in an analysis of cumulative impacts on navigation in Twelve Mile Creek.
Recommendation 4:The right to navigate on Twelve Mile Creek should be protected.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca www.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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RECOMMENDATIONS
Based on the information set out above, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits that the information in the Environmental Screening Report would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the required federal environmental assessment.
LOW makes the following specific recommendations:
1. The project must be redesigned to leave at leastof the width of Twelve Mile Creek free of any material in order to comply with the Fisheries Act.
2. The project cannot proceed without further protections in place for the American eel, including evidence of the efficacy of any proposed fish or eel-ladder technology.
3. Any approvals granted for the project must be contingent on the efficacy of the measures put in place to protect the American eel, such that the dam must be removed or modified if it is found to jeopardize the survival and recovery of the eel.
4. The right to navigate on Twelve Mile Creek should be protected.
600 Bay Street, Suite 410. Toronto, ON M5G 1M6 T416-861-1237 admin@waterkeeper.ca www.waterkeeper.ca Proud member of Waterkeeper Alliance
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