St. John River ecosystem undermined by Mactaquac Dam decision

NB Power must release scientific research on which decision based

FREDERICTON, Dec. 20, 2016 /CNW/ - In response to today's NB Power decision to partially rebuild the Mactaquac Power Generating Station to extend its use to 2068, WWF-Canada issued the following statements.

Elizabeth Hendriks, WWF-Canada's vice-president of freshwater conservation, says:
"WWF-Canada is disappointed that NB Power has opted to spend billions of dollars to extend the life of the Mactaquac Dam instead of putting that money toward an option that will ensure the long-term resiliency and health of the St. John River ecosystem for the benefit of both wildlife and communities.

"WWF-Canada does not support large, reservoir-based hydropower facilities. Large dams fragment the natural habitat, are harmful to wildlife and disrupt the natural flows of water that are essential to a healthy and resilient river ecosystem.

"In the short-term, this may be the most affordable decision for taxpayers. But this expenditure will lock us into a future of continued decline of the St. John River ecosystem, which will prove even more costly in the future. We had an opportunity to invest in restoring an ecosystem, and to move toward the habitat-friendly renewable energy alternatives that exist in the province of New Brunswick as shown in WWF-Canada's Renewables for Nature tool. Instead, New Brunswick will spend at least $2.9 billion to put a small bandaid on a big problem that future generations will have to resolve at an even bigger cost."

Simon J. Mitchell, WWF-Canada senior specialist, St. John River, says:
"We recognize the social and cultural importance of the dam to communities along the river.   We also understand that people have grown accustomed to and appreciate the presence of bass, muskie and other wildlife that have benefitted from the creation of a reservoir. Overall, however, the impact of a large dam is harmful to biodiversity and reduces the ability of the watershed to perform valuable ecosystem services.

"Decisions on infrastructure with such a significant effect on nature and communities should be evidence-based and formed on a regional decision-making process that accounts for cumulative effects to the St. John River ecosystem.

"NB Power, however, said it will not be sharing key component studies it says were used in the decision-making process, making it impossible to judge the scientific basis on which this decision was made. We are calling on NB Power, a Crown corporation, to share this research with the public. The next step in this process is further public engagement, but without access to information that engagement can't be informed and meaningful."

WWF-Canada recommends that:

  • NB Power, a publicly funded entity, immediately release the component studies performed to assess all four options (a new power station, partial rebuild, leaving the dam without power generation, dam removal to return the river to its natural state).
  • NB Power and the province of New Brunswick demonstrate to the public that scientific evidence is being used to craft and implement regulations on environmental flows – the quantity, timing and quality of water flowing in the river – sufficient to maintain a healthy river ecosystem.
  • NB Power adhere to its commitment to address long-standing fish-passage issues for both the reservoir and the dam, particularly for fish such as salmon and sturgeon that migrate up the river from the ocean to spawn. This has been a key area of interest for a number of stakeholders, and is a key concern of indigenous communities.
  • Any further work on Mactaquac Dam be guided by the internationally recognized Hydropower Sustainability Protocol.

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca

SOURCE WWF-Canada



For further information: Rowena Calpito, communications specialist, rcalpito@wwfcanada.org, +1 416-489-4567 Ext. 7267

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