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Quetico Wilderness Park – Scientists Speak Out

The ecological and historical integrity of the internationally renowned Quetico-Superior wilderness area, along the Ontario and Minnesota border, is being threatened by a proposed hydro-electric dam on the Namakan River.

In a big push to expand renewable energy, the McGuinty government has classified hydro electric power as 'green' power. However, hydro power is only 'green' if it harnesses rushing waters without impeding or altering the natural flow.

The proposed dam on the Namakan River will push back river water and flood areas along the boundary of Quetico Wilderness Park just east of Thunder Bay, and will destroy the habitats of the threatened Lake Sturgeon and the Pygmy Snaketail Dragonfly.

Wilderness class parks are the most significant of all protected areas. They represent large intact wilderness areas where natural systems are allowed to fluctuate with natural forces with little or no human intervention.

If the proposed dam goes forward without strong public opposition, it will set the status quo for many other proposed dam projects across Ontario.

Scientists speak out against the Namakan River Dam.

Welsh and McLeod: Detection of Natural Barriers to Lake Sturgeon Movement within the Namakan River, Ontario
Kallemeyn: Fisheries Impact Review
Caroffino: Fisheries Impact Review
Donald: Fisheries Impact Review
The Quetico Foundation

Major Concerns:

  1. The Namakan River is a critical migration corridor and spawning ground for Lake Sturgeon, a species whose status is identified as “threatened” by Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and its Species at Risk List (SARO), and a “species of special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Hydroelectric projects are considered the primary cause of the sturgeon’s decline. Damage to the Namakan sturgeon will directly impact sturgeon in tributaries of the Namakan within Quetico Provincial Park itself.
  2. Downstream from High Falls is the single location in Ontario that is home to the Pygmy Snaketail Dragonfly. The species is known to be intolerant of interference with a river's flow, apparently cannot bred downstream of dams, and would be extirpated from the province if this habitat is lost. The Namakan is also home to the Whip-poor-will, which is identified as “threatened” by both COSEWIC and SARO, and the Snapping Turtle, which is designated as a “species of special concern”.
  3. The impoundment of water behind the proposed dams at High Falls will raise water levels in an area of Quetico Provincial Park which directly contravenes the Ontario Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act. In addition the Quetico Rapids on the Namakan River would be flooded.
  4. Historically, the Namakan was an important route for Canada’s First Nations and fur trade. Today, Quetico Provincial Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and Voyageur National Park, are renowned internationally for their network of wilderness canoe routes. Dams on the Namakan River will destroy not only its status as a cherished paddler’s paradise, but also its preservation as an historic waterway and its function as the keystone of this community of protected areas.
  5. With regard to the economic model of the proposed development, Northwestern Ontario has a glut of energy which cannot be efficiently transmitted to the south where it is needed. The cost per kwh of generating and transmitting power from the Namakan generating stations is significantly higher than the market rate. As a result, the Ontario tax payer will be directly subsidizing the difference between generation costs and market rate.
  6. There are many significant errors, omissions and deficiencies in the draft Environmental Report released by the proponent. These include a lack of a comprehensive assessment of the three projects; limited assessment of the impacts beyond the immediate study area; no assessment of the impacts on the three protected areas (Quetico, Voyageurs and Boundary Waters); inadequate mitigation measures and failure to demonstrate the effectiveness of any mitigation measures proposed; a failure to demonstrate a viable business case; and representation of unrealistic economic benefits.

Read More: Quetico Wildernes Park threatened by hydro dam

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