Wabagishik Rapids, Vermilion River
The Vermilion River has been under threat from the proposed development of 4 modified run-of-river hydroelectric facilities since finding out about them late in 2010. The proposed Wabagishik Rapids Generating Station was the first of the 4 to move forward, and in November of 2013, the Vermilion River Stewardship, Ontario Rivers Alliance, and over twenty other individuals and organizations made Part II Order requests to the Minister of Environment, indicating that in our opinion Xeneca Power Development Inc. (Xeneca) did not meet the requirements of the Class EA for Waterpower in several areas, and requested that the Environmental Report (ER) be elevated to an Individual Environmental Assessment, a more rigorous environmental assessment. The public file revealed a conflict of process and policy within the MOECC, in that Xeneca did not meet the requirements of the Class EA for Waterpower; however, the staff’s dilemma was how to facilitate the ER through to permitting without setting an unwieldly precedent, and/or without being sued should something go wrong once the facility was built – see the internal MOECC document here.
On May 18 2016, VRS and ORA were notified that the Minister had approved Xeneca’s Environmental Report, with conditions that were to be met throughout the permitting phase (see letter below). The community was devastated at the news; however, we were encouraged that the Minister ensured that all requesters would be invited to be part of a Committee that would be involved and informed throughout this permitting phase.
However, on the 30th of May and the 8th of July 2016, we received responses on our IESO Freedom of Information Request that was filed in February of this year, in which we requested a list of all terminated Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Contracts (see letter below). The lists indicated that all of Xeneca’s FIT Contracts had been terminated. Terminated FIT Contracts cannot be reinstated, and developers cannot build a hydroelectric facility without a FIT Contract. Consequently, not only was the Wabagishik Rapids, Cascade Rapids, McPherson Rapids and At Soo Crossings on the Vermilion river saved, but over 23 sites on 10 Ontario rivers are saved from development by Xeneca.