Wild Northerner Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 14

Q - How much work went into safeguarding those 24 sites and getting the campaign done about Thames River?

Q - How much work went into safeguarding those 24 sites and getting the campaign done about Thames River?

A - Over the five years that we were working to safeguard those sites, I was working long days, up at 6 am and to bed at midnight, and pretty much 7 days a week – my laptop was never far away. My family was concerned, but I was very committed to those people and groups who were depending on ORA. When I was named Chair of ORA, I was quite naive about the amount of work involved, but about three months into it I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of what we were trying to do. After all, the Waterpower Class Environmental Assessment, and that entire process holds no possibility of a “no” outcome. In the beginning I thought we would just have to convince the government of the impacts and consequences of hydroelectric. However, it became crystal clear very early on that it wasn’t green or clean energy or the environment that was fueling the green energy rush. After all, governments continue to ignore the studies reporting that dammed river hot spots in temperate climates can increase global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 7%. Methane is produced when sediment builds up behind the dam, and reservoir reaches are a major source of methane emissions that can continue producing for decades and possibly centuries. Green energy has been more about jobs, and the exploitation and privatization of Ontario rivers.

The Springbank Dam is a recreational dam, the last in a series of several dams on the Thames River, which empties into Lake Erie. The Thames is a Heritage River, with one of the most ecologically diverse riverine ecosystems in Ontario, with over 90 species of freshwater fish, including 11 that are identified by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife Canada as threatened or at risk.

When the Thames River Anglers Association (TRAA) approached the ORA in September of 2015 to see what could be done about the Springbank Dam, the City of London’s Mayor and much of Council were not even considering decommissioning the dam – the Mayor ran his election campaign on repairing the dam and was determined to do just that.

The Springbank Dam fell out of operation in 2008 when one of its gates jammed and became inoperable shortly after it was put back into operation from a previous dam failure. A lawsuit with the contractor ensued, and throughout those 8 years the gates remained open. To everyone’s surprise the river rebounded, allowing an abundance of many different endangered species to recover and re-establish within the riverine ecosystem.

Early in 2016 ORA and the TRAA mounted a compelling letter writing campaign to the Mayor and Council, gathering together a coalition of 20 organizations representing over 250,000 members to jointly sign on. This started a new conversation, which in January of this year, after many twists and turns, ended in a unanimous decision by London City Council to decommission the dam.