N.B. gov't working to determine future of Mactaquac dam
Premier David Alward addresses the future of the Mactaquac hydro dam at a press conference held Monday in French Village, N.B.
Published Monday, August 27, 2012 6:49PM ADT
When it was built back in the 1960s, New Brunswick’s Mactaquac hydro dam was supposed to last 100 years, but as it is now, it won’t reach 70 years.
The provincial government says there is still plenty of time to figure out what to do about the dam and now there is a growing effort to ramp up those discussions.
“The projections are that the dam will operate safely into 2030, so that’s the specific message to New Brunswick,” says New Brunswick Premier David Alward.
That may seem a long way away, but preliminary engineering work has already begun to figure out whether the dam should be rebuilt, refurbished, or decommissioned.
Either of those options could end up costing the province $3-billion.
Construction at the dam each summer is now more of a rule than an exception and more than $6-million is budgeted each year to keep on top of a chemical reaction which causes the dam’s concrete to expand, then crack.
“The fact is, if work were to begin on a refurbishment of Mactaquac, we’re talking about 2021 to 2022, that area of time, so we have a number of years to look at it,” says acting Energy Minister Craig Leonard.
However, area residents are already talking about the future of the hydro dam, including the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. The group hasn’t taken an official stance on what they would like to see happen to the dam, but it is pushing the provincial government to include the public on such discussions and sooner, rather than later.
“There are a lot of issues with the dam when it comes to how it grossly changed the flow of the St. John River, flooding, how it’s blocked migration of Atlantic salmon,” says Stephanie Merrill of the New Brunswick Conservation Council.
“I was 11 in 1967 when my father died and the dam came in the same year it was a very traumatic year for me,” says resident Mary Ann Bramstrup.
For Bramstrup, any discussion about Mactaquac is about as personal as you can get. Her childhood was literally uprooted when the dam was built. If it were up to her, the dam would go.
“I realize it wouldn’t immediately regenerate to that state, but restoration of a river is a lengthy process. I think, overall, it’d be better in more of its natural landscape,” says Bramstrup.
“We’re going to have different options to be looking at,” says Leonard. “So what we’re doing moving forward on any of these projects is looking at it if from a business perspective, what makes sense in our overall plan and moving forward in a way that’s best for New Brunswickers.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore