The shutdown of Nova Scotia Power’s tidal power plant in Annapolis Royal won’t have any immediate impact on the town’s coffers, but Mayor Bill MacDonald hopes the town can be part of discussions going forward.
Last week the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans ordered NSP to shut down the iconic electrical power generating station after a review of data, especially in relation to reported fish kills over the past three decades.
“From the very beginning the Town of Annapolis Royal has reached out to Fisheries and Oceans to get updates on where the review and the monitoring was, because we’re as concerned as everybody else is, obviously, with the environment and the marine life and habitation in the area,” MacDonald said. “Perhaps there’s an opportunity -- and certainly I’ll reach out to Fisheries and Oceans and ask -- if there’s an opportunity for the town to be part of these discussions moving forward.”
MacDonald, who described NSP as a good corporate citizen in the town, said property taxes from the tidal power plant property equals 18 per cent of the town’s annual budget but currently the shutdown won’t impact those revenues.
“It’s stopped before and I understand that it’s actually been shut down since January,” MacDonald said. “They’ve been doing some work. Some upgrades internally. So currently it doesn’t impact the town at all. Ultimately, if it’s a permanent shutdown, then again it doesn’t really impact the town until Nova Scotia Power perhaps makes some decision with respect to the property.”
Sara Swinamer with the Bay of Fundy Water Protectors group said she’s happy the tidal power generator has been ordered shut down. She led protests on the Annapolis Royal causeway while the NSP/DFO review was happening in Halifax in January.
“The decision to regulate Nova Scotia Power under Section 35 by DFO was way overdue,” she said. “It’s about time the environment’s best interest was taken into consideration and the truth recognized for what the turbine was doing. Everyone knew it was causing serious harm to fish and causing death at this site but no one in government was doing anything about it.”
Swinamer, from Bear River, said Dr. Michael Dadswell’s research papers were a tremendous help.
“His research on fish turbine passage deaths in the 1980s shed light on the reality of just how many fish were being killed and I just kept thanking him for his work,” Swinamer said. “I have not thanked him personally but he deserves a lot of credit and I am grateful the research was out there for us to take a lead on.”
She said that since the Bay Of Fundy Water Protectors became involved in 2017 there were many people who referred to them as trouble makers.
“Others stated you will never change what is in place because it is Nova Scotia Power and your group is a handful of people, your efforts will amount to nothing,” she said. “During the three years of fighting for the site to be regulated under section 35 by DFO I myself at times doubted we could make a difference.”
DAVID AND GOLIATH
“Since I’ve gained a voice in tidal energy I’ve been pretty vocal about the Annapolis turbine and what it’s meant for the river and our shared heritage of fishing trophy bass in it,” said Colin Sproul, president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association. “But all credit for what’s happened at the causeway belongs with the grassroots. I only offered a little advice and encouragement and doughnuts.”
He said what a few dedicated people, the Bay of Fundy Water Protectors have accomplished, is incredible.
“They faced off with a corporate giant in defense of their community and environment and they won,” Sproul said. “A real David versus Goliath. We could all learn a thing or two from people like them.”
MacDonald said the town of Annapolis Royal is aware of the concerns of people in the community, and people at large, about the tidal power plant and its impact on marine life and marine habitation.
“Anecdotally, locally there’s lots of reporting of fish kills and damage – the kills of sturgeon and the reduction of bass in the area – all of these things,” MacDonald said. “And as a young man in the ‘60s I would fish off the sluice gate myself and catch bass. So I know there’s been a change in the marine life in the area.”
He said what the community is learning is that a lot of those reports never found their way to the people who should have been taking that into consideration all these years.
“So here we are today. It’s been shut down,” MacDonald said. “It needs to be examined as to whether it can move forward and whether Nova Scotia Power and Fisheries Oceans can find a common ground. They will or they won’t. And if they find common ground, the question will really be ‘is that satisfactory to the community?’”
“It’s my understanding that it’s the only tidal power plant of its kind in North America,” he said. “That may tell us something just by that fact.”
“An important lesson of what’s happened on the causeway over the last three decades is that this turbine was the only precedent in North America for tidal energy generation,” Sproul said. “That precedent was that it would be allowed to have tremendous environmental effects and yet still be allowed to operate as a test site.”
“What we need now as fishers is a commitment from DFO and NSE to set a new precedent,” he said. “One which puts ecology and the precautionary principle at the forefront and not corporate profits. This is the management strategy that is applied to our fisheries and we all need to play by the same rules.”