EMSDALE – A municipal park may become the site of a hydro generation project.
According to project proponent Robin Wentzel of Water Power Group says they are in the preliminary stages of the project.
He says they have been talking to Perry Township council and landowners to see what concerns they may have surrounding the project at Brooks Falls on Deer Lake Road.
“There will just be a weir,” he said. “We’re talking about a meter high so the water will flow right over it.”
He says with the intake weir system there is no raising of the water levels.
“It has to be a very low impact project. It should not impact fisheries and it should not impact the falls because a lot of people go and use that,” he said.
He says this is a challenging design to come up with the very low impact.
“The goal is, and this is key input from the township, that anything done must not impact the falls,” he said. “So we are working on a layout proposal that will enhance the park not deduct from it.”
He says he recently toured the site with a neighbouring landowner.
“We want to demonstrate that it is possible to do a low impact community project,” he said. “If there is no community involvement we don’t want to do it.”
He says it is not worth it in the long run if they don’t have community support for the project, which he says is not a conventional dam.
Negotiation with the Township of Perry is in the early stage and a business plan has not yet been presented. A likely agreement would have them pay a lease to Perry Township.
“There would be revenue generation, opportunities to invest at a very good rate of return,” he said. “And then there is park enhancement. We do want to leave the park a better and nicer place to visit than at the moment.”
They are planning to install a one-meter high inflatable weir that will go up and down with the levels of the water, which will, according to Wentzel, be partially visible as the water flows over it running the width of the river above the falls.
It would divert water from the river when flows are higher.
“In the spring there is a lot of flow so in the spring we will work as much as we can because there is more than enough water to go down the falls as well as generate a turbine,” he said. “We can also generate at a good rate during much of the winter.”
He says they would have to be prepared to shut down or operate at very low capacity during the summer.
The inflatable weir would divert a portion of the water through a buried penstalk that would take it down to the powerhouse, about 5 by 7 meters in size, about 500 meters downstream from the falls.
“Technically it’s a micro hydro project because it’s below a megawatt,” he said. “The footprint of this is very small.”
From the powerhouse there will be an underground cable feeding the existing power lines on Deer Lake Road, transmitting the power to the distribution station 1.8 km from the site.
“We make use of the same corridor so there is no new impact to that either,” he said.
Wentzel says there would be no visual impact and no negative aquatic impact.
He says there have been four years of homework and tens of thousands of dollars to get them where they are now.
“We’ve been doing a lot of homework,” he said. “We’ve been collecting a lot of habitat studies, all the background information that’s needed to come up with something that might work or might not work.”
He says right now they are looking to see what kind of wildlife, including fish species, birds, flora, fauna and amphibians are in the area.
“Before we can get to the (Ministry of Environment) etc. we need to kick off an environmental assessment and we are not there yet,”
Wentzel says they are planning a public open house, likely during this summer, to show the conceptual design and show people the benefits to the weir system at the park.
“It’s revenue generated and some of that will go back to the community,” he said.
He says any negative impacts from the project they will compensate for. For example, Wentzel says digging the trench to bury the cable is a negative impact, but they will replant the area.
“We don’t want to have a negative impact on the aesthetics,” he said. “From many of the consultations we have had up until now, we might have a positive impact on how people use the park.”