Almonte residents are protesting the proposed expansion of a hydroelectric dam on the Mississippi River over concerns it will harm tourism and damage the ecosystem.

Enerdu plans to begin expanding the dam this fall if it gets approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Some residents have opposed the plan since it was first proposed two years ago

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Residents worry the dam will destroy downtown Almonte.

A sign that reads, "save our river" hangs in the window of a shop on Mill Street. Owner Sara Bazett said the dam could ruin the river's tumbling rapids.

"My main concern is this is a town for tourism," Bazett said. "People come to see the view of the river." 

Mike O'Malley said he's worried construction could harm the river and its ecosystem. He is part of the Mississippi RiverWatchers, an organization of concerned citizens dedicated to preserve the river.

"If you look out there today, you'll see a dozen kids playing in a natural water park," O'Malley said. "If we had to go and build that, no one could afford to. It's priceless."

He is also concerned the larger dam will create an industrial feel in the historic downtown.

A protest is taking place in Almonte with several hundred people in boats and kayaks in the river and in the surrounding area.

Enerdu wants to sell power to province

Enerdu project manager Ron Campbell said the larger dam will operate according to the existing water management plan. He added that the company has been responsive to the public's concerns.

"We have followed every rule," he said. "We have followed significant public input opportunities throughout the process. The public comments have had an impact on the plans."

The dam expansion will allow Enerdu to sell power to the province, he said.

But Bazett argued it's not in the town's best interest, "Our Hydro bills are not going to be lowered, and I don't understand what the benefit to the town is."