MUSKOKA LAKES - A local resident is concerned the Ministry of Natural Resources is not addressing the negative economic effects a hydroelectric station would have on Bala.
The Ministry of Natural Resources completed a report on the economic impact of the 41 proposed hydroelectric stations throughout Ontario. The report included information on the direct, indirect and induced impacts a station would have locally, regionally and provincially.
Mitchell Shnier, one of the Bala Falls supporters, sent a letter to the MNR voicing his concern that the report did not address the negative impacts of a hydroelectric station, particularly as they relate to specific sites such as Bala Falls.
Such a facility would make whitewater rafting, scuba diving and swimming impossible or too dangerous, he said. Snowmobiling and ice fishing would become too dangerous because of changing water levels caused by the station.
Shnier concluded the decline of these activities will cause job loss as well as lost business to local lodges, outfitters, restaurants and gas stations.
He said the report ignores the impact of these activities.
“This is as short-sighted and closed-minded as saying that shoplifting is good for the economy because the thief can sell the stolen items and earn money,” the letter said.
Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources, said those activities were beyond the scope of the project.
“This study is a basic economic impact analysis at a relatively coarse level. It did not address negative impacts, but because of its scope, it did not account for all the positive impacts either, such as cost savings for improved public health as a result of replacing coal-fired plants with renewable and low emission type of energy,” she said in an email interview.
The North Bala Falls Small Hydro Project is expected to begin in 2015 with a life cycle of 40 years.
The report indicates the 41 water-power projects proposed on Crown land will create the equivalent of 9,900 full-time job equivalents in Ontario within the next 23 years, with $677 million in labour income.
“The report estimates all jobs created to an apparently arbitrary year of 2035, and presents these jobs as if they lasted only one year. So the claimed 9,900 jobs are only an average of 430 jobs per year — a rather different result,” Schnier said.
Shnier suggested two options to the MNR: to withdraw the report until the negative economic impacts are considered or to add text explaining those impacts haven’t been addressed.