Water over the dam – community promised consultation before decisions made

John Gardner photo The Milltown hydroelectric generating station. Residents have been promised community consultation will happen before changes are made to the dam, which is scheduled to be decommissioned.

St. Stephen – There are changes coming for the historic Milltown generating station, but what those changes look like are still to be decided.

In June, NB Power President and CEO Gaetan Thomas stated in a press release the oldest hydroelectric dam in Canada was reaching the end of it’s life, and would therefore be removed.

“My team told us we could do it (refurbishment) in the $20 – 25 million range, but it turns out it’s going to be way more expensive than that,” said Thomas at the only advertised public meeting held by NB Power on July 11, 2019. “For the 3 megawatts that are left here (Milltown generating station) there’s options that are cheaper than that,” he added, using the low cost of wind power as an example.

It was a decision that has been met with much public interest and concern.

Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development, Mike Holland is the provincial minister responsible for NB Power. This past Saturday, the minister attended a town hall style meeting at St. Patrick’s Hall, which sits in sight of the dam.

Holland acknowledged the utility has had several meetings with the municipality and other stakeholders.

“I’m going to represent the direction that comes from the community, the municipality and the utility finding common ground,” said Holland.

If the dam were to be removed, Holland, who is himself an active outdoors man, expressed there would be some benefits to the fish stocks and the general flow of the river.

It is an area Holland said he has not dug into at great depth, because he is still waiting to hear from the stakeholders, the community being “the most important” on how best to proceed.

Recognizing the river is an international waterway, Holland understands that which ever way this proceeds, it will “Not complicate or restrict,” he said.

St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern is happy with what he is hearing from Holland.

“I am satisfied as of right now,” said MacEachern with Holland’s declaration nothing will proceed until the community is fully involved in the process.

MacEachern pointed out there is a lot to the process and no decision has been made on if the dam will be removed or refurbished. At this time there are active discussions with the utility and private developers to explore keeping the dam in place.stakeholders have found common ground assured Holland.

Plans with developers will only move ahead after the community is consulted.

“All I am asking is that the right thing be done,” said the mayor.