Ontario group submits environmental process for waterpower projects

The Ontario Waterpower Association has submitted a Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for review and approval.

If approved, the new process would replace an existing environmental screening process and apply to sponsors of hydropower projects in Ontario. The Class EA is intended to provide direction on effective project assessment, the association said. It also is expected to encourage processes appropriate for, and specific to, hydro projects.

In addition to requiring all new hydropower projects to be screened against comprehensive environmental, social, cultural, and economic criteria, the Class EA requires a formal environmental report for every project.

The Ontario Waterpower Association began work on the environmental assessment procedure in 2002, hoping to coordinate and integrate what it called the multiplicity of environmental approvals and public involvement processes for planning a hydro project.

The Class EA is designed to ensure sponsors of hydropower projects consistently take into account the potential effects that their projects would have on the environment using an approved process that is specific to hydropower projects, OWA said. It sets out a planning process that is to be followed for specific project types.

The proposal provides a single document that can be used for assessing projects according to their type and scale of activity, potential for environmental effect, and level and extent of public, aboriginal, and agency interest. The document is intended to provide a common process for developers, the public, government agencies, aboriginal communities, and others of the planning, evaluation, reporting, and involvement process for each category.

The Class EA is open for comment until Dec. 14. It can be examined at Ministry of Environment offices in Toronto, at the ministry’s regional offices, OWA offices in Peterborough, and on the association’s Internet site, www.owa.ca.

Comments must be sent to Heather Brown, Special Project Officer, Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch, 2 St. Clair Ave. West, Floor 12A, Toronto, Ontario M4V 1L5; Fax: (1) 416-314-8452.

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