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Great Lakes Article:

Strong support for proposed hydro dam
By Carl Clutchey
The Chronicle-Journal (Canada)
Published February 5th, 2005

Support for a proposed hydroelectric station outweighs opposition to the project by a substantial margin, paving the way for the first utility to be built on one of Ontario’s prime canoe routes, a final report shows.

Construction on the 23-megawatt “run-of-the-river” station could begin as early as July on the White River about 30 kilometres southeast of Marathon.

The exact site includes Umbata Falls, a 30-metre waterfall about 15 km upstream from Lake Superior and a mere 2 km from the border of Pukaskwa National Park.

While a clear majority of respondents at open houses held last year and in 2003 said they were in favour of the project’s design, feedback wasn’t unanimous.

One reviewer, according to the report, opined that “the river will be ruined forever.”

To be producing electricity as early as March 2007, the station is to be built by Begetekong Power Corp., a joint venture between Pic River First Nation and Innergex II.

The run-of-the-river design will require the construction of an underground tunnel nearly 500 metres long in order to channel water into two turbines housed in an underground powerhouse located at the base of a treacherous gorge.

Electricity generated from the station will be fed into the provincial hydro grid over a 23-km power line that will connect to an existing 115-volt line just north of the Trans-Canada Highway.

The report notes the White River is one of Ontario’s most scenic canoe routes. It also mentions that the White’s potential as a source of electric power has been known for more than half a century.

A 1991 study by the Ministry of Natural Resources said nine “economically-feasible” run-of-the-river sites on the brown river could produce a total of 63 megawatts of electricity — about 20 per cent of the government’s recent request for new sources of renewable energy.

The Umbata Falls station is to become Pic River First Nation’s third and largest utility. Hydro development has made the band one of the most successful small reserves in Canada.

The 200-km White River contains 60 rapids and falls. About 180 canoeists, on average, have done the trip each summer for the past 20 years.

In the report, about 60 per cent of people heading to the site for recreaton said they would likely make a return trip to Umbata Falls. Some said they hoped the construction on the hydro station won’t change the esthetic values of the route.

Anyone with environmental concerns about the project must make them known by Feb. 28.

They can be e-mailed to the project’s consultant at lking@acres.com.

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