What is being proposed:

Xeneca Power Development Incorporated (www.xeneca.com) is pursuing two hydroelectric projects on the Petawawa River, in Petawawa, Ontario. One, named "Half Mile" is located in a relatively inaccessible portion of the local military base, and has extremely limited public access. The second, and more concerning project, is named "Big Eddy." Much of the information on this website pertains almost exclusively to the Big Eddy project.

The Petawawa River flows out of Algonquin Park, wild and free for the most part. It flows through the relative wilderness of the training area for CFB Petawawa, and into Black Bay, where residential cottages begin to dot the shoreline. Crossing Highway 17 it flows into the Town of Petawawa. Upon reaching the populated area of town, the river picks up energy and cascades through a series of four major rapids before emptying into the Ottawa River.

More Specific Details:

The Big Eddy project will be constructed across the river at Railroad Rapid (or Trestle) right in the heart of the community. It is located along the Millenium Trail, just at the walking bridge. The dam or (or weir as Xeneca has chosen to call it) will be constructed of two parts: a concrete base, approximately four feet tall, and an adjustable steel gate known as an Obermayer Gate with an additional height of approximately four feet.

In addition to the dam, a channel will be blasted through the forest along the river left shoreline. This diversion trench will draw water out of the river, and through a concrete channel and powerhouse and then emptying back into the river just upstream of the Petawawa Blvd bridge. In addition to the dam, the intake channel and the powerhouse there will also be the need to cut large swaths of the forest both upstream and downstream of the project to accommodate high tension power lines and roadways for site access. These roads and power lines are all clearly marked on the Project Description and the Waterpower Site Strategy documents.

How much power will this create?

The maximum production is 5.8 MW. That is about enough for 1/16th of Petawawa's residents. So, about 6% of the people who live here. And that is the maximum capacity. That does not include commercial use. It will not create any lasting employment as the dam will be remotely operated.

How will it operate?

The project will generate electricity through a cycle known as "modified peaking" which means that the developer can store water throughout portions of the day, and release it during "peak" times to generate the most money for it.This means that the water in the river below the powerhouse will be substantially reduced for large portions of the day. Railroad Rapid (or Trestle Rapid) will have only a trickle of water, known as "compensatory flow" as determined by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Then, once or twice a day, the flow from the powerhouse will increase by a huge amount - possibly as much as 600% - within a few minutes. This will severely increase the hazard for those downstream (Catwalk).

Want to know more? You should write Xeneca and ask them!

But what about the safety of residents when the flows increase?

The Project Description does not provide any details, but with similar projects the safety of residents in the downstream vicinity of the powerhouse has been assured by installing barb wire fences along the river. As for those further downstream, it is difficult to say what actions they will need to take when the flows increase. Xeneca has assured concerned citizens that their safety is important.

Want to know more? You should
write Xeneca and ask them!

But what about the environment?

There are many unanswered questions about how the environment will be protected. Xeneca admits that there is no planned action to protect at least one endanged fish species (lake sturgeon) and the jury is still out on a couple of others. This project is being pushed through something known as a Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects. This is one of the first times a dam has been built under this new EA. Time will tell if this system is adequate but it is significantly faster and easier for the dam builders to get their projects pushed through.

Want to know more? You should
write Xeneca and ask them!

What about swimming and paddling? Fishing?

Those are all good questions. All we really know is that the flows on the river will be substantially affected. Both the short term and long term impacts are hard to predict.
You should
write Xeneca and ask them!

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