Residents organize to Save the Bala Falls
November 21, 2012
To view a timeline of events regarding the Bala Falls hydroelectric project, go to the Nov. 21, 2012 Bracebridge Examiner or Gravenhurst Banner, page 10 & 11 in the print editions.
BALA - Save the Bala Falls began as a community group in 2008 to battle the government and Swift River’s efforts to build the hydroelectric plant.
Their goal is to show both parties the project would do more harm than good.
Mitchell Shnier, a member of Save the Bala Falls, said the organization has three main concerns: safety, beauty and whether there would be enough water flow over the north and south falls to continue to draw people to Bala.
“Basically that’s all we’ve been asking for, but we cannot get a straight answer from the ministry or the proponent,” he said.
The group consists of permanent and seasonal residents who are opposed to the hydroelectric project.
They have appealed the Ministry of Environment’s decisions and have posted Save the Bala Falls signs on their lawns and throughout Bala, seeking community support.
The organization began the move in October 2008 to designate heritage sites around the falls when they presented council with a 40-page petition consisting of 800 signatures requesting a heritage designation for Bala Falls.
A year later, Save the Bala Falls, a grassroots organization, became incorporated. To date, Shnier said they have spent very little money, but many hours trying to save the falls.
Both Save the Bala Falls and the Township of Muskoka Lakes requested that the province do a more stringent environmental study for the more elaborate Option 2, and then again requested it when Swift River announced they are going back to a version of the original plan (Option 1).
At the moment, Save the Bala Falls members are particularly concerned about the plans Swift River is pursuing in the addendum.
“Their current proposal is not Option 1. It’s in a different place, it’s a different proposal, it’s a different plant, it has a different number of turbines, it’s all kinds of things that are different,” Shnier said.
He said he is frustrated with how little Swift River communicates with the community.
“In five years now, they’ve only had two public meetings with us,” he said.
Shnier said they don’t know where the process is right now with the provincial election coming up.
“We appealed (the addendum) to the minister himself, so this is only the second time in the entire five years that we directly in the process asked something from the minister himself,” he said. “I’m assuming that we’re up in the air waiting till things settle.”
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