Mixed reaction over plans to remove St. Stephen generating station
Published Saturday, July 13, 2019 7:09PM ADT
The operational days of a historic generating station in southern New Brunswick appear to be numbered.
NB Power is looking for approval to decommission the Milltown Hydroelectric Generation Station on the St. Croix River and remove the dam.
The station is the oldest of its kind in Canada, operating since the late 19th century. NB Power says it has reached the end of its life.
The news is generating mixed reaction in the small Maritime community.
"There’s a big emotional value, and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I first heard it,” says St. Stephen mayor Allan MacEachern.
Historian Darren McCabe says it was the original generating station for the St. Croix cotton mill, a major employer for the area.
"Part of that operation, that generating station operation, that began to expand, says local historian Darren McCabe. “In 1887 they put online a rope driven generator which was the first electric generator at the station."
The power utility says removing the station and dam will allow for the restoration of salmon falls and about 16 kilometers of the St. Croix River.
Fundy Baykeeper Matt Abbott says this is good news for gaspereau, an important river herring.
"This is really exciting,” says Abbott. “Fish are recovering on the St. Croix River. The gaspeareau is a species that feeds whales, it feels porpoise, it feeds seals, seabirds, land critters, like bears and raccoons."
In the 1980’s, the population of fish was around 2.5 million, but in 2002 only 900 fish were able to make the run.
“There is a real groundswell of effort, a real impressive collaboration between all the nations involved, the Peskotomuhkati, Canada and the US. And we're really excited to see that continue."
But mayor MacEachern still has many questions and concerns about removing a historic part of the town.
"That dam helped build this community, to take that away, there's a value to that, he says. “I want to make sure that the value is put into equation."
NB Power says there won't be a big impact on the power grid in the province from the station decommission, as it only accounts for about 0.8% of their hydro-generation.
Once an environmental impact assessment of the project is complete, NB Power says they plan to start decommissioning in the fall of 2020.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Lyall.